Tuesday, December 14, 2010

She Won't be Forgot...

A week ago today (December 7, 2010) my Aunt Phyllis passed away at her home in Columbia City, Indiana at the age of 88. Due to my own negligence (not checking voice mail for two days – shame on me!) I didn't find out about it until Wednesday night. On Thursday morning I left the nice warm home of my friend in northeast Louisiana and headed to the frigid north. After 900 miles, seven states, two time zones, crossing the Mississppi River three times, and 25 hours later, I arrived home safely Friday morning. Visitation was Friday afternoon and the service was Saturday morning.

But I wasn't the only one to drive a long distance to pay my respects to Aunt Phyllis – her sister, my Aunt Shirley drove from Maryland and my older brother Doug came down from Minneapolis. As her daughter Kathy said, it was a testament to how much Phyllis was loved that we would drive so far to be able to be in her presence one last time. [Update 2:30 pm - I had a memory lapse... Phyllis' grandson Jameson Mitchell and his mother Emmy flew in from California to attend the services.]

It was nice to see many of my cousins and their children, some whom I hadn't seen in many years, and their grandchildren, some whom I had never seen. Though it was sad that death is what brought us together there was joy and happiness in sharing stories and memories of Aunt Phyllis and honoring her long life, one well lived.

One word was spoken over and over during those two days that describes Aunt Phyllis – Special. And that she was. Not only was she so very special, Aunt Phyllis had the ability to make you feel special. She didn't condemn. She didn't judge. She listened. And she talked, and boy, was she a talker! She never spoke badly about anyone. Never an unkind word to or about anyone. She was kind, gentle and loving, and one of the nicest people I have ever known. She was Special.

Aunt Phyllis sometimes did silly or “stupid” things. But she was able to laugh at herself. One of my favorite stories about her involves a little night light that wasn't!
Phyllis and Walt lived in Columbia City in an old two-story house that was difficult to keep warm in the winter. During one particularly cold winter in the 1960s they purchased an electric blanket. It was their first one and she was quite pleased with it. One day while showing it to her brother Bill, after raving about how well it was keeping them warm and comfortable at night, she commented that they didn't need the night light that was on the control so she always turned it off. When Bill pointed out that the “night light” was actually a light to indicate that the blanket was turned on she laughed about it and got through the embarrassment and the story has been told over and over through the years.
Phyllis Elizabeth Phend was born in Columbia City, Indiana on September 29, 1922 and was the first child of Rolland Victor and Hazlette (Brubaker) Phend. She lived most of her life in Whitley County, graduating from Larwill High School with the Class of 1940. Phyllis married Walter Eugene Mitchell on December 6, 1942 (the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor). She passed away on December 7, 2010 (the day after what would have been their 68th wedding anniversary).

Phyllis and Walt opened “Mitchell's Bait and Tackle” store in their home in Columbia City in 1946. They kept it going for 23 years closing it down in 1969. Walt was also a collector of post cards and old bottles, while Phyllis loved collecting buttons and old dolls. For many years they attended shows and auctions buying and selling their stuff. And since Aunt Phyllis “never knew a stranger” they always had a good time while doing it. She enjoyed it immensely.

Phyllis was the mother of five children: Kathy, Mike, Patrick (died in an accident in 1948 at the age of two), Jim and Kevin. She had 8 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren, 4 step-great-grandchildren and was expecting 1 great-great-grandchild due in March of 2011. She was a “second Mom” to many of the kids in the neighborhood.

Mike, Kathy, Walt, Phyllis, Kevin, Jim
I think this was taken at their 50th wedding anniversary in December 1992.

March 2008. The siblings.
Patricia, William, Shirley, Virginia, and Phyllis (seated).


Carol said...

Lovely tribute Becky, to a special woman. May she rest in peace and may her familie's memories continue to be so special as well.

GrannyPam said...

Your aunt was certainly well-loved, I can see that from your tribute. God bless one and all.

Sue and Fred said...

I know that it meant a lot to you and to your family that you could be home for Phyllis' funeral. You are in our thoughts.

Amy Coffin, MLIS said...

You've written a lovely tribute to your aunt. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Greta Koehl said...

I'm sorry to hear about your Aunt Phyllis, but I can see that she will be cherished in the loving memories of her family.

Debbie said...

What a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing her with us.

Lidian said...

I'm so sorry - your aunt sounds like such a wonderful, lovely person. What a beautiful tribute to her!