REMEMBERING THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF
Grace Nerrissa Sands Seals Miller
Grace Nerrissa (née Sands) Seals Miller was born on August 31, 1928, in Key West, Monroe
County, Florida as the eldest of two children of the late Olive Blanche (née Allen) and Allan Norberg
Sands. Her mother, also born in Key West, operated a bakery and restaurant, and her father was a
Bahamian immigrant who worked for the Florida East Coast Railroad. Her maternal grandparents
were the late Lilla (née Barnett), born in Tarpum Bay, Governor’s Harbour, Bahamas, and was a
homemaker known for making homemade candies; and James Alfred Allen, Sr., of Tarpum Bay, who
worked as a Key West Naval Station laborer, in a pineapple factory, and local printery, and whose
parents are the late Addie Eliza (née Culmer) and William Wilkerson Allen of Tarpum Bay. Grace’s
paternal grandparents were the late William C. Sands and Rebecca J. Hall of Rock Sound, Eleuthera,
Bahamas. Her only sibling, a brother, was Norman Sands, Key West, who served in the United States
Army during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. He died from conditions associated with PTSD in
2001. Tracking her family history and lineage continues.
Growing up, she was educated in the Monroe County and Dade County Public School Systems in
Key West, Florida and Miami, Florida, respectively. She graduated from Historic Booker T.
Washington High School, home of the “original” orange and black Tornadoes located in Overtown.
It was the first Miami high school for African American students from Palm Beach County to the
Keys. It was known as the best high school in the area for African American students, and so a cousin,
Naomi (née Allen) Adams, mentored and assisted her as she transitioned from Carver High School
in Coconut Grove, Florida to Booker T. Washington High School.
After graduating from high school, her father ensured that his only daughter was afforded a college
education until his death. This resulted in her return to Key West, where she met and eventually
married Navy man John Benjamin Seals stationed there from Long Island, New York. After Naval
services, they both attended and graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
(FAMU) in Tallahassee (Leon County), Florida with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Her Bachelor
of Arts degree and master’s degree in education focused on secondary education and social studies.
From 1954 to 1960, five children were born and her career began. Grace persevered and attempted
doctoral studies at the University of Florida in 1965, and attended the Universidad de las Americas
in Mexico City, Mexico to further study Spanish and linguistics. While she never completed doctoral
studies, she enjoyed a robust teaching career at Howard Academy in Monticello (Jefferson County),
Florida; FAMU Developmental Research School (Leon County); and Baxley (Appling County),
Georgia where she taught history and Spanish. “Miss Seals” is how she was affectionately known by
students in North Florida and South Georgia. Her students excelled in many fields as entrepreneurs,
elected officials, and professionals because of their foundation in education instilled in part by Grace.
Later in life after her first marriage was irreconcilably broken, she became the wife of Wilfred
Miller, Sr., of Hanover, Jamaica. He was a master craftsman in construction whose talents are used
in many Disney World sites. He also preceded her in death on January 29, 2009 at age 69. Prior to
his death, they both enjoyed traveling together, savoring foods of diverse cultures, and family. In
addition, Mrs. Miller relished foreign languages and linguistics. Although her primary
communication language was English, she was fluent in Spanish, and learned French, German,
Russian, and Italian.
Undaunted, by the challenges of life, she continued along the pathway of teaching, this time in
Central Florida’s Orange County Public Schools. It was not easy to get a job at first because she
encountered an issue of the day when told that the Orange County School system had reached its
“quota” for African American/Black teachers. She eventually landed a teaching position at historic
Jones High School, and then several years more at Westridge Middle School until she retired.
As a devout teacher, she conducted programs and activities wherever she taught to bring Spanish
culture and lifestyle to life in the classroom. She always wanted to stretch the boundaries of her
students’ and her own children’s minds. She believed that there was inherent value in being aware
of diverse cultures, languages, and traditions regardless of one’s background or status. She was proud
of her Bahamian and Afro-Cuban ancestral roots.
She embodied the FAMU Rattler spirit and annually attended most of the FAMU football
classics and homecoming events with friends and her late husband, “Mil.” They were like two peas
in a pod who were endearingly in love, often coordinating their outfits for events and programs.
Under the influence of her father, Norberg Sands, she was an Orthodox Catholic in her formative
years, but converted to the Lutheran faith after her move to Orlando and nuptials with her second
husband and longest lasting love.
Engaged in service and community affairs, Grace was a long time member of the Florida
Democratic Party, the Agricultural and Labor Program, Inc. (ALPI) with more than 35 years of
volunteer service teaching migrant workers English, and Our Savior Lutheran Church of Orlando.
Her years of teaching and serving are marked with walls of plaques, trophies, and commendations.
She enjoyed reading, sewing, baking, listening to classical music, traveling, and theatre where she
especially excelled as an oratorical coach and elocutionist (expressive speech). She was proud of
former student Wesley Snipes who went on to become a well-known actor. Snipes later mentored
her son, Alano Miller, who graduated from Purchase College in New York following the lead of his
mentor. Alano is well on his way as an actor and producer. According to her first cousins Harry
Dawkins and Rose Dawkins of Miami, they recalled her playing organ in church. They said that she
always liked the best of everything including graduating from Booker T. Washington High and
Her memory and legacy are preserved by her children - three daughters: Dr. Cheryl Nerrissa
Seals-Mobley Gonzalez, trained mediator, writer, retired higher education administrator, and real
estate developer (Florida); Minister Pamela Seals Nunnally, retired Bibb County School teacher
(Georgia); and Dr. Donna Seals Maye (husband Theodore) Barnes, author, liturgical dancer, retired
schoolteacher, and entrepreneur (Georgia). Sons are the late Norbert Allan (wife Sandra) Seals, a
national/state/local political consultant and lobbyist who graduated from Harvard University, and
who preceded her in death on June 18, 2019 at age 60 (Florida); and Clement L. Seals, retired United
States Army Veteran (Alabama). She was blessed during her second matrimony with two sons:
Wilfred S. (wife Marsha) Miller, Jr., a retired United States Marine and corporate project manager
(Texas); and Alano A. (wife DeWanda) Miller, who is an actor on stage, film, and television, and
producer (Vermont). She proudly spoke of her husband’s son, restaurateur Robert (wife Suzette)
Miller, whom she also doted upon, and many family members near and abroad.
Also cherishing her are grandchildren Jamesia O. Mobley (husband Quincy) Sinkler, Javaan O.
Mobley, James O. (wife Erica) Mobley, III; Cambridge Sands (wife Marshell) Mobley, Eileen C.
Gonzalez (husband Tavoris) Cloud, Raymond L. (wife Lauren) Gonzalez, Victoria Grace Gonzalez,
Jonathan Nunnally, Joseph Gregory-Allen Maye, Norbert Allan Seals, Jr., Martin Allen Seals,
Antonio “Tony” F. Miller, and Brianna Grace Miller, fourteen (14) great-grandchildren, several inlaws, and a host of cousins and friends.