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Tonya Puckett-Miller, the ex-wife of former Minnesota Twins superstar Kirby Puckett, has died at age 58 from brain cancer at her home in Mendota Heights.

She was diagnosed with glioblastoma in January 2022 and died Friday, said her husband, the Rev. Melvin Miller of St. Paul's Progressive Baptist Church.

"She was an amazing mother, an amazing community leader," Miller said. "She was very committed to her faith in Jesus Christ and the work of the church."

Tonya Hudson was born May 12, 1965, in St. Paul to Margaret Hudson of Edina, who also survives her. Puckett-Miller grew up in north Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park. She and Puckett married in 1986 and divorced in 2002 amid his legal troubles.

After the divorce, Puckett-Miller focused on philanthropy, helping raise millions for organizations such as Children's HeartLink and the Puckett Scholars program, which provides scholarship money for students of color attending the University of Minnesota. She cared for distressed children in her home through a Christian organization called Safe Families.

About 100 days after Kirby Puckett woke up unable to see clearly, he announced his retirement in July 1996. Tonya was by his side.
About 100 days after Kirby Puckett woke up unable to see clearly, he announced his retirement in July 1996. Tonya was by his side.

Star Tribune file

She also became involved in Bible study fellowship where one of the leaders told her they'd been praying for God to find her a mate. According to Miller, his late wife told the mutual friend, "I'm totally uninterested. The only way I'd marry someone is if he came knocking on my door."

Miller arrived in just such as fashion, coming into Puckett-Miller's life when a mutual friend asked whether he'd help out Kirby Jr., then a student at Augsburg University, with math. "I said, 'Sure, I'll go help him,' and I came walking up to her door," he said. "She was an amazing, amazing woman."

Miller taught high school math before moving into the ministry.

Puckett-Miller married Miller in 2013 and together they have seven children, including two from her marriage to Puckett, Catherine and Kirby Jr., both of Minneapolis, and one son together, 14-year-old Tyson Miller.

She is also survived by her stepchildren Martin Miller, Mariah Miller, Mikal Miller and Morgan Carrillo; her grandchildren Brendan Draper, Nairobi Nelson, Bailey O'Brien, Savannah Puckett and Kirby Puckett III; and her mother-in-law and father-in-law, Eunice and Earl Miller.

Kirby Puckett died March 6, 2006, in Phoenix, after a massive stroke.

A celebration of life is planned at Progressive Baptist Church, 1505 Burns Av. in St. Paul, at noon Thursday with visitation beginning at 11 a.m.