Rhena’s and both husbands’ participation in the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship

William Moffitt Harris – Part 9


In the Summer of 1948 Dr. Schweitzer rested for some time in the Black Forest retreat of Koenigsfeld where his friends noticed his extreme weariness and loss of weight. He then spent some time in Switzerland where he met his four grandchildren for the first time. He closed his book Out of my Life and Thought, which he completed in 1931 in Lambarènè, with the following thought “Whether we be workers or sufferers, it is assuredly our duty to conserve our powers, as being men who have won their way through to the Peace which passes all understanding”.

Rhena was trained as a medical technician for a couple of years so as to work beside her father at Lambarènè from 1950 onwards. Following her father’s death in 1965 until 1970 she took over the operation of the hospital as a strong collaborating administrative agent to the director of the hospital Dr. Walter Munz, first assistant to Dr. Schweitzer. There she met Dr. David C. Miller, later her second husband, a cardiologist who was interested in studying malnutrition on the hearts of the natives. On discussing his schemes and results he captivated a longing friendship with Schweitzer and cared for him until his passing over.

On his death bed in 1965 the old man begged forgiveness from his daughter for not having had time to go to her wedding with Jean Eckert.  Rhena died in 2009 at the age of ninety. From her first marriage Rhena left a son and three daughters, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Her work at the Fellowship and branches spread throughout the States, England, Austria, Switzerland, Gemany and France;it was most praised all over the world. She was really the key manager of the organization.

After getting married in 1971, Rhena and Miller lived for a few years in Atlanta and travelled around the world offering medical assistance in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Vietnam and Yemen. They promoted conferences and gave firsthand information on the work in Africa where international help continued its expansion under Dr. Schweitzer’s philosophy of Reverence for Life Preservation. From her second marriage, there are no descendants.

Her husband, David C. Miller had already died in 1997 also at the age of ninety in Pacific Palisades, California, at the home of one of his wife’s daughters. For his remaining years he was victimized by a disease that damaged his brain to the point of him not even recognizing his wife any longer. No medical help could cure him so he was bedridden in the care of one his stepdaughters, a medical research specialist at the local university.

The Miller couple and Harold Robbles founded the Albert Schweitzer Institute for the Humanities in 1984 which later established its headquarters at the Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, and after a couple of years moved to new headquarters of the Fellowship in Boston. They created the Reverence for Life Comendation in 1990 to recognize humanitarian efforts performed in the spirit of Albert Schweitzer. It was interesting to have read about groups of persons belonging to other professions getting inspired by Schweitzer’s philosophy, such as veterinarians, botanists and environmentalists. A good example is in Germany where in the year 2000 Attorney Wolfgang Schindller founded the charitable Albert Schweitzer Foundation for our Contemporaries as a politically independent animal protection organization. The Foundation received Schweitzer’s name from Rhena. Some of its objectives encompass: compassion in world farming, compassion over killing and to create the public response to the injustice of animal exploitation. Schweitzer himself had idealized the Animal Welfare Institute from 1951 to the time of his death in 1965.