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Molly turned 90 in ’09 and three generations were in town to celebrate.

Reverend Mary Allison Bigelow (Molly) McMillan, 97

Molly’s obituary ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Sunday, February 19, 2017.


Reverend Mary Allison Bigelow (Molly) McMillan, born July 30, 1919, died peacefully February 16, 2017, in her apartment at the EagleCrest Presbyterian Home in Roseville. She was preceded in death by her parents, Allison Bigelow and Charles Henry Bigelow, and her husband Richard McMillan. She is survived by her five children Richard (Barbara), Charles (Ronni), Douglas (Ann), Allison (Mark) and Anne (Edward), fifteen grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

Baptized at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church, Molly grew up in a family that cared deeply about church and community. She attended Summit School and Vassar College, graduating in 1941 with a degree in physics. She met her future husband while singing in the choir at House of Hope. She and Dick were married June 26, 1943, and raised five children: Rick, Charlie, Doug, Allison and Anne.

Music remained an important part of family life for Dick, Molly and their children. When Dick died in 1995, Molly commissioned Minnesota composer Stephen Paulus to create an opera, The Three Hermits, as a memorial. (Paulus, in turn, dedicated the opera’s most memorable chorus, “The Pilgrims' Hymn,” to Molly.)

Molly was deeply involved in her community. She became president of the St. Paul Junior League in 1957 and served as regional director of the Association of Junior Leagues of America from 1959-1961. In 1962 she received a mayoral appointment to the Ramsey County Welfare Board, and she was a member of the St. Paul Health and Welfare Planning Committee during the 1960s. She was the first woman elected a trustee of the Wilder Foundation and served as a trustee of the F.R. Bigelow Foundation.

In the early 1970s she enrolled at United Seminary, receiving her divinity degree and, in 1978, becoming one of the half-dozen earliest women to be ordained as a Presbyterian minister in the Twin Cities. Her work at House of Hope and Central Presbyterian Church yielded scores of thoughtful sermons. The Bigelow Chapel at United Seminary stands as a tribute to her commitment to the school, which she served as interim president, president, and board chair. She received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1989, after her service as board chair.

She served on the boards of the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research and the Presbyterian Homes Foundation. She was the recipient of five community awards, including two from the United Way as well as the YWCA award for Leadership in Community Service, the Distinguished Alumna Award from Saint Paul Academy and Summit School, and the Sisterhood Award for Humanitarian Service from the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

In 2007, at the age of 88, Molly was chosen Fund Raiser of the Year for the state of Minnesota for her leadership in the People Incorporated capital campaign, and she still found the time to teach two bible classes at EagleCrest.

Funeral services will be held at The House of Hope at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 25, 2017. In lieu of flowers, memorials in Molly’s memory may be made to United Seminary, House of Hope Church or People Incorporated.