I, as all others who had the good fortune to know Phyllis Morrissey, mourn her death -- but more importantly, celebrate her life. I first met "Phyll" through her son, Brian. At the time, Brian and I were both working for Ace, a program supported by the Southwest Supervisory Union, whose mission was to help troubled youth in Bennington. I first "met" Phyllis over the phone to express my appreciation of her delicious homemade Polish sausage Brian had shared with me. Phyll was gracious, warm and funny while speaking with me on the phone!
Strangely, I was drawn to this woman like a bee to honey. Shortly after that phone call I met Phyll in person and it was love at first sight!
Phyll's sense of humor was infectious, beautiful and at times "wickedly devious." We shared road trips, Tanglewood performances, magical, uproarious dinners, and family holidays. The common thread on all these occasions was laughter. I'll always remember laughing with her over so many stories and escapades she relayed to me. I especially recall her retelling how she and Gerald, her husband, met when she was a young girl and he a student at Notre Dame. He did not easily win her affections in the beginning despite being a football player for the Irish. However, he did eventually win her over, they wed and went on to raise seven wonderful children who today follow in their mother's footsteps.
Listening to Phyll describe rearing her brood in the little house on Dewey Street, one would think her Superwoman, cooking, cleaning and tending to her family, all while wearing a purple cape embossed with a raised "P" on the back. Phyllis loved her children; motherhood was her joy. This is evidenced by the obvious adoration her children have for her today. She was such a fine example for them. Her integrity was second to none. Her kindness and generosity heartfelt, and her non-judgmental acceptance of people from all walks of life were an inspiration, not only to her children but to all who knew her. She fed strangers, dressed unfortunate children, and opened her home to despairing youth who felt hopeless and helpless. Her nurturing and encouragement earned their love, respect and trust.
Yet Phyllis did not publicize her good deeds or think herself special. She was doing for others what God put in her heart to do. It was innate. Perhaps that was the true beauty of this unique woman not showy, never showy, and by not being showy, "showed" all of us what it is to be a person of character, a lover of life, and a woman of substance. Fly with the angels, my friend!
Sandi Constantini is a resident of Tampa, Fla.
Editor's note: Phyllis Morrissey, 94, a longtime resident of Bennington, died Feb. 2.