by Nancy Griffin

Erica Miller, the founder of modern day aesthetics in the United States, died Wednesday, March 12th, at the age of 52 after a two-year fight against lung cancer. I had the privilege of knowing Erica Miller professionally, and now that she is gone I am wishing I had gotten to know her better personally. After countless interviews with her professional peers, I realize that, with Erica, there was no distinction between professional and personal. She loved her work. She loved the people she worked with. And they loved her.

My first experience with Erica was at Marian Urban's first Summit of the Master's Conference. Erica was the featured keynote, and she was incredible. Having come from the hotel side of the spa business, I was not aware of Erica's huge impact in the day spa side of the business. It was then I realized that she truly was a 'rock-star' in her field.

I next had contact with Erica after she was diagnosed with cancer. The Hills Health Ranch in British Columbia, home of the Erica Miller Spa School, was hosting a Spa Finder Partner Retreat last fall. Erica spoke to our group and facilitated a roundtable by speaker-phone. Susie Ellis and I were blown away by her ability to understand each individual spa owner's issue so quickly over the phone. 'I will never forget how much I learned from her,' Susie told me. 'She was truly a wealth of information and exuded an understanding and passion for the day spa industry that I have not seen before or since.'

Erica's resume is unsurpassed in the spa industry. She was an internationally acclaimed educator with world class qualifications in the esthetics and body care industries. Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Dermascope Magazine, she was a licensed Esthetician and Massage Therapist, CIDESCO Diplomate and International Examiner. She authored three books and produced a series of training videos. Her client list reads like a veritable 'who's who' of famous spas: The Greenhouse, The Broadmoor, Norwich Inn, Miraval, Cordillera, and The Disney Institute, to name a few.

Erica's impact on the leaders of the spa industry today spans over three decades and several continents. 'From Egypt to Japan and everywhere in between, Erica has done it all,' said Pat Corbett, who with his wife Juanita will keep Erica's legacy alive through the spa school at the Hills Health Ranch and through distribution of Erica's educational materials. 'People are wanting to identify the teaching and mentorship Erica provided and to celebrate her life and what she gave to them,' Pat told me. 'The Elkhorn Lodge in Manatoba is putting a plaque in their Spa in Erica's honor, and we expect others to follow.'

The spa industry was Erica's family, and her legacy will continue in the hearts and minds of the people who love her. 'She was loved and respected by all who had the pleasure of knowing her,' wrote Julie Pascal, Executive Director of Spa Canada. Shortly before her death, a group of spa industry supporters presented Erica with a quilt filled with sentiments and photos from Erica's life. Polly Johnson from Hydro Spa Consulting organized the project: 'We started making what we thought was a simple quilt with notes and photos from many who love her ... and it grew ... and grew ... and got bigger ... and into a King Sized expression of our great love and mutual admiration of her.'

Jeff Kohl, ISPA president and former spa director at the Disney Institute, said in a grief-stricken voice yesterday, 'This is tragic loss, not only to the industry, but a great personal loss. Erica is the reason that I am in the spa industry.'

Lynn Kirkpatrick, owner of With Class Spa in Tyler, TX and the protégé asked by Erica to take over teaching at the Erica Miller Spa School at The Hills, eloquently captured Erica's uniqueness: 'Erica was 'true-blue'. She was a genuine individual whose Lauren Bacall-like laugh lifted you up. Her sincerity and caring made people feel like a million bucks. It has always been an honor to know her, and an even greater honor to call her a friend.'

Erica's legacy lives on at the Erica Miller Spa School at the Hills Health Ranch in British Columbia. For information on the next Spa Directors training May 4th through the 10th, visit