Phylis Mae Wilmoth Henry Savage, a quick-witted woman with a charm who lit up the room, died on July 25 at her home in Chester aged 99, seven months and 17 days. She made all the difference in the lives of so many people and her job here is done.
Phylis lived through the Great Depression and five wars. She would tell you that she avoided walking to school in the 1930s by hitchhiking in the back of a milk truck. She would tell you about her one-room school in Grahamsville (Ludlow), which she attended with her older sister Roxana. The highlight of her school years, she said, was walking out of class to watch the hearse carrying Calvin Coolidge travel to Plymouth Notch Cemetery in 1933. Phylis would tell you she was old while showing you that ‘she never really grew up. She sat at the children’s table on Thanksgiving, she loved celebrity gossip and inappropriate jokes, she said what she thought and never did what adults told her. She had a heart for the less fortunate and a way of making everyone feel special.
Phylis was born on December 8, 1922 in Ludlow, the daughter of John C. and Helen (Pollard) Wilmoth. She graduated from the old Black River Academy in 1940 before attending Rutland Business School. Phylis then returned to Ludlow and commuted by train from Ludlow to Chester to work as an accountant at the Central Vermont Public Service Corporation, where she met her first husband Arnold B. Henry, a lineman. After Arnold’s death in 1957, Phylis met her late husband Hanson M. Savage, Sr., a truck driver and dairy farmer. Phylis spent most of her adult life as a farmer’s wife in Chester, where she cooked lunch every day for the farm helper and the barn cats. Phylis’ life has been filled with her children. She raised six children and devoted herself to her grandchildren. To her grandchildren, she was Grami, a special woman with endless, no-rules fun who could fill your day with ice cream, swimming, crafts, shopping, sledding and shenanigans. Phylis was also a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, offering friendship, guidance and love to children who had no one else.
Phylis gave you her heart and when you weren’t looking she gave you her things. (It was a good idea to check your car after a visit because it probably hid garage sale treasure there). Phylis was proudly independent until the day she died – too stubborn for it to be otherwise. A tough Vermonter, Phylis showed you there’s no such thing as being too old. She raked the leaves in the fall and shoveled the snow in the winter until her last days. If she saw another old person with a cane, she would challenge them to a race.
Phylis spent her last years laughing with friends and neighbors on her porch on Church Street and striking up conversations with friends and potential (unknown) friends who passed by. She was grateful to her nurse practitioner Patricia “Trish” Brown for her care, her companionship, and especially the colorful scarves Trish gave Phylis at each doctor’s visit. The family would also like to thank neighbors Tom and Victoria Elgan, who always kept a watchful eye on Phylis.
While everyone wants to know the secret to a long life, Phylis had at least three: being flexible enough to bend over and touch her toes, walk around every day, and never skip dessert.
Phylis leaves behind her daughter Roberta H. (Henry) Vorhis and her late husband Russell “Al” of Jefferson, Maine; son Dale A. Henry and his wife Linda of Greer, SC; John P. Henry and his wife Sandra of Venice, Florida; Richard D. Savage and his wife Laurel of Chester; and Justin P. Savage and his wife Maureen of Cavendish. She also leaves her grandchildren Jonathan, Jennifer, Kriston, Allison, Luke, Michelle, Jessica, Katy, Alaina, Kori, Casey and Chris, as well as several great-grandchildren. She is predeceased by her sister Roxana (Wilmoth) Tofferi.
A funeral service will be held at North Street Cemetery in Chester on August 6 at 1 p.m., followed by a celebration of life at the American Legion in Chester. Instead of flowers, make someone else feel special.