Phyllis joined the Birchrock Castle family in August of 2022. While downsizing from her Mukwonago home was not easy, she says people can take better care of her here, which she could not do on her own.
“I am very independent,” Phyllis says. “I do most things myself. I always try to make my bed. I do the best I can.”
“Here, you can go around and do you own thing. Nobody bothers you about it. I love to exercise, so I work on my arms and legs mostly. I try to go several days a week.”
At 97 years old, Phyllis is the only one in her family who has lived this long other than a grandma who made it to her early 90s. She’s discovered how residing at Birchrock Castle has helped her live a better life.
“I have asthma so I have to get medicine for a breathing treatment. They come in and help me and are all very nice.”
Phyllis, who was lovingly known as “Phil the Pill” growing up with her three brothers, was born in Big Bend, but was raised in Mukwonago in a home on Grand Avenue that her father built.
“My dad was a carpenter and he had a shop in town with my Grandpa Frank,” she recalls. “I used to stop there after grade school and my grandma Maggie would always have cookies for us. At that time, it was during the war so it was hard to get things for baking.
“When I was older, I had to come home and help my mother with the house. I didn’t particularly care about that. I wanted to go out with my friends. We took long walks for fun and looked for wild asparagus along the railroad tracks.”
The second of four children, Phyllis was especially close to her brother Harvey, whom she lost at a young age.
“He was killed in a car accident when he was 17 and it broke my heart,” she says. “He was so smart and spent a lot of time building model airplanes in our basement. I still miss him.”
Her other brothers, Foster and Bill, served in the Army and Air Force. And Phyllis also did her part during World War II right out of high school.
“I went to Milwaukee and took a typing test to work for the government,” she says. “I earned a high mark so then they put me in a big room with other female typists. As the guys came home from the war, they asked if I wanted to be the head of the claims department. We had to file claims to see if a soldier was eligible for a pension.”
Phyllis met her husband, Dudley on a blind date at her friend’s New Year’s Eve party. With her independent streak and love for her work, Phyllis wasn’t thinking about settling down.
“We dated a while and he asked me to marry him. I said I wasn’t ready to be married yet or tie myself down. We just kept going out. I was 28 when I finally got married.”
Phyllis and Dudley married on April 30, 1949 at her church in Mukwonago. They had four children, three boys and a girl, and lived in Fox Point, Menomonee Falls and Mukwonago.
“I have three retired kids who live close by, so they can come to visit me. I have so many grandchildren that I cannot keep track.”
When Phyllis is not exercising, you can find her reading a good book, (a favorite is Gone with the Wind), or watching the birds feeding outside her window. She credits Robert Sheets, the Activities Director at Birchrock, for always keeping the feeders full so she can enjoy her feathered visitors.
When asked about her proudest accomplishment in life, Phyllis has this to say.
“I just kept on going. I made the best I could of it.”