Phylis Mae Wilmoth Henry Savage, a quick-witted woman with a charm that lit up the room, died July 25 at her home in Chester at age 99 years, seven months and 17 days. She made all the difference in the lives of so many and her work here is done.
Phylis lived through the Great Depression and five wars. She would tell you she avoided walking to school in the 1930s by hitching a ride on the back of a milk truck. She’d tell you about her one-room schoolhouse in Grahamsville (Ludlow), which she attended with her older sister Roxana. The highlight of her school years, she’d say, was getting out of class to watch the hearse carrying Calvin Coolidge make its way to Plymouth Notch Cemetery in 1933. Phylis would tell you she was old while showing you she never really grew up. She sat at the kids’ table at Thanksgiving, she liked celebrity gossip and inappropriate jokes, she spoke her mind and never did what the adults told her. She had a heart for the less fortunate and a way of making everyone feel special.
Phylis was born December 8, 1922 in Ludlow, the daughter of John C. and Helen (Pollard) Wilmoth. She graduated from the former Black River Academy in 1940 before attending Rutland Business School. Phylis then returned to Ludlow and commuted on train from Ludlow to Chester to work as a bookkeeper at Central Vermont Public Service Corporation, where she met her first husband Arnold B. Henry, a lineman. After Arnold died 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 prepared lunch every day for the farm help and barn cats. Phylis’ life was made full by her children. She raised six kids and devoted herself to her grandchildren. To her grandkids, she was Grami, a special woman with endless fun and no rules who could fill your day with ice cream, swimming, crafting, shopping, sledding and shenanigans. Phylis was also a mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, providing friendship, advice and love to kids who didn’t have anyone else.
Phylis gave you her heart and when you weren’t looking, she gave you her belongings. (It was a good idea to check your car after a visit because she likely snuck a yard sale treasure in there). Phylis was proudly independent until the day she died — too stubborn for it to be any other way. A tough Vermonter, Phylis showed you there’s no such thing as being too old. She raked leaves in the fall and shoveled snow in the winter until her final days. If she saw another senior with a cane, she challenged that person to a race.
Phylis spent her later years laughing with friends and neighbors on her front porch on Church Street and striking up conversations with friends and prospective friends (strangers) who walked by. She was grateful to her nurse practitioner Patricia “Trish” Brown for her care, companionship, and especially, the colorful scarves, which Trish gifted Phylis at each doctor’s visit. The family would also like to thank neighbors Tom and Victoria Elgan, who always kept a watchful eye over Phylis.
While everyone wants to know the secret to a long life, Phylis had at least three — be flexible enough to bend over and touch your toes, go for a walk every day and never skip dessert.
Phylis leaves behind her daughter Roberta H. (Henry) Vorhis and her late husband Russell “Al” of Jefferson, Maine; sons Dale A. Henry and his wife Linda of Greer, South Carolina; 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 graveside service will be held at North Street Cemetery in Chester Aug. 6 at 1 p.m. followed by a celebration of life at the American Legion in Chester. In lieu of flowers, make someone else feel special.