Updated: Nov 5, 2022
There is a small sign on Phyllis’s house that says “Welcoming Friends since 1965”. And that is exactly what she did. She welcomed wildlife too with many bird houses in her spacious garden, inviting them to nest.
Phyllis was the longtime leader of the Go Go Tea Group, inviting generations of new international women to her cozy house in the Ann Arbor countryside. She was also an indispensable part of International Day for decades as the person newcomers could call for a ride. This was a critical role in the early days of International Neighbors when few newcomers had a car or could afford a taxi. I like to think of Phyllis’s warm, smiling face behind her steering wheel being the first impression a newcomer would have about International Neighbors. And she recruited many friends to help her over the years, only giving up the job at the age of 85.
I remember Phyllis’s Go Go Tea Table one year at our International Day Tea Party. Rather than focusing on a single country, she did a blend, drawing out the best in her Tea Group: a pretty tablecloth, special tea that made women’s complexions beautiful sourced from a province in India, red roses, delicate Iraqi cakes topped with roses, and another member’s great aunt’s pretty flowered china. Presiding at the table was Phyllis at her most gracious, serving tea from her heirloom pewter tea pot and making each guest feel special.
In recent years, heart problems kept Phyllis home; she regretfully could no longer attend International Neighbors events. She remained active and engaged with the support of her close family and many friends. During the pandemic, she took Zoom music classes.
Phyllis passed away aged 97 on April 20, 2022 surrounded by her beloved family and undoubtedly myriad spring migrating birds. One of the pictures shows Phyllis with her sweet smile and her daughter on my visit last year. The other is a table set for a Go Go Tea group gathering. Phyllis will be missed by everyone who knew her.