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Life Story / Obituary
Phyllis Ann (Applegate) Carlson was born on April 15, 1930, to Vern Linn and Madeline (Kiesling) Applegate. The youngest of six children, she and her siblings, Albert, Virginia, Dick, John, and Priscilla were born on a historic, centennial farm outside of Atlanta, Illinois, a small farming community in central state.
She grew up on the farm where her family raised beef cattle, duroc hogs, grew corn and soybeans. During the Great Depression, Phyllis’ family began the tradition of making hand-dipped chocolates, black walnut caramels, and fresh honeycomb from the beehives. There was always a lively social and intellectual atmosphere in their family home as each of the siblings graduated from college.
Phyllis graduated from Atlanta High School and went on to attend the University of Illinois on a home economics scholarship. She originally won the state chemistry prize, but gave up the award so the runner-up was afforded the opportunity to attend college.
In time, Phyllis transferred to Illinois Wesleyan University where she studied nursing. This is where she met her future husband, Bob Carlson. The conflicting stories of their meeting always made for a good debate. They either met on a blind date set-up by mutual friends, or Phyllis heroically saved Bob from imminent danger in a hospital elevator gurney collision.
Phyllis and Bob continued to court after college when Bob joined the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Bob often hitchhiked from Indianapolis, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois to see Phyllis where she was teaching nursing. Bob said he expended every ounce of energy and persuasion he had to deserve such a pretty and vivid girl to be his bride.
Bob and Phyllis were married on November 6, 1955 and as a young couple, they began their new married life together in Chicago. Over the following eight years, Bob and Phyllis brought five children into the world: Bob Jr., Tom, Sue, Dave, and Dan.
As their growing family came to outgrow their house, they moved to the northern suburb of Wilmette, and established themselves in the life of the Winnetka Covenant Church. They literally and figuratively sunk their roots into their life of being parents.
Phyllis kept busy taking care of the kids. She was known to prepare huge cauldrons of spaghetti sauce for her sturdy brood. She created wonderful holiday art and craft projects, prepared sack lunches for school, and made homemade, saltwater taffy treats for little goblins at Halloween. Never idle, Phyllis always had a project in the works!
In the summers, Phyllis loved tending to her large flower garden in the backyard. She and Bob also rented a portion of land for a vegetable garden. All five of the children tagged along, pretending to be fearsome tigers in the long grass while Phyllis and Bob seeded, weeded, and harvested bumper crops of tomatoes, carrots, green beans, and zucchini.
Eventually, Phyllis and her family moved to Cleveland, Ohio and subsequently Detroit, Michigan where Phyllis became quite active in social causes. She was also an active member of Bethany Covenant Church while in Cleveland and at Faith Covenant Church in Farmington Hills, Michigan where she enjoyed great friends.
In 1980, Phyllis was diagnosed with advanced degenerative kidney failure; it was no less a grave moment in her life and the lives of her family. In August of that year, Phyllis received a kidney transplant from her sister, Virginia. That generosity allowed Phyllis to embrace 37 additional years of life for which she never failed to be grateful. As a matter of fact, she often called that day her “Rebirthday.”
Phyllis had a talent for creating and by way of her endless heart for giving, she loved to serve her church in this capacity and in addition, her community. She established a very successful butterfly garden at the Detroit Zoo, spent many hours sewing inspirational banners for the church sanctuary, and joined her friends in enriching the lives of the less fortunate. Some of her favorite causes included supporting families in need at the Detroit Rescue Mission, and of migrant working families in Florida.
Since their children came to live throughout the country, Phyllis was the happiest when she was surrounded by her children and grandchildren, Eorl, Kenneth, Stephanie, Kevin, Britta, Linnea, Paige, and great-granddaughter, Olivia. She loved it when everyone gathered together either at their cottage on Witch Lake in the Upper Peninsula, at their winter home in Bonita Springs, Florida, and later at their home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
When Phyllis and Bob ultimately joined the community at the Covenant Village of the Great Lakes in Grand Rapids, Phyllis continued her gardening by dedicating her time and skills to the garden and flower beds there. She also loved the beautifying and celebrating the holidays and the passing of the seasons with her many clever and pretty craft projects. She will be missed by all her friends in the Village Gardeners and out in the sunshine of the raised garden bed.
Bob, the love of Phyllis’ life passed away in March of 2010 after an extended battle with Parkinson’s disease, surrounded by his beloved Phyllis and their family. While Bob was the outgoing, networking half of their team, Phyllis was the solid foundation behind his successes of which their life of service depended on.
The life of love and service Phyllis valued so much inspires all as she is remembered for her unwavering kindness and generosity.
The family of Phyllis would like to thank the women who took care of her over the last several years. You each provided Phyllis with great comfort, care, friendship, and peace under the changing circumstances of her health. Our fond appreciation goes especially to: Rhonda, Stephanie, Dawn, Caryn, Esther and Michaelle.
Phyllis A. Carlson, loving mother, grandmother, and friend went to her heavenly home on Friday, July 14, 2017. Along with her parents and husband, Robert “Bob” Carlson, Phyllis was also preceded in death by her son, Daniel Carlson; brother, Albert Applegate; and sister, Virginia Freiwald. She is survived by her children, Bob and Rosa Maria, Tom and Julie, Susan, Dave and Lori; daughter-in-law, Laura; grandchildren, Eorl and Denise, Ken and Angela, Stephanie, Kevin, Britta, Linnea, and Paige; and great-granddaughter, Olivia. She is also survived by her brothers, Dick and John Applegate; and sister, Priscilla Archibald.
A service to celebrate and remember Phyllis' life will be held on Saturday, July 22, 2017, 12 noon at Covenant Village of the Great Lakes, 2510 Lake Michigan Drive NW, Grand Rapids followed by lunch together. Relatives and friends are invited to visit with her family on Friday, July 21, 2017 from 5-8 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW, Grand Rapids. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Covenant Village Benevolent Fund. Please visit Phyllis' personal web page to read more of her life story, share a memory or condolence and to sign her online guest book at www.lifestorynet.com.