Phyllis Fisher (nee Ryan)
December 19, 1947 – May 23, 2017
Phyllis was born in Toronto to a loving and resourceful mother who in post war years either cared directly for Phyllis or made sure she was nurtured in wonderful homes surrounded by people who “adopted” her into their families. Phyllis’ Aunt Mazie cared for her like the daughter she never had. The Endicott’s welcomed her into their farm home as a sixth daughter and the Pogues from Bobcaygeon invited her into their spare bedroom and introduced her to the church that she grew to love and serve. Although Phyllis was an only child she collected moms and dads and sisters along the way that enriched her life and helped mould her into the lady she grew to be. This small-town girl loved the water and the Kawartha Lake country where she grew up and never forgot the friends who all loved her as a local girl who was going to make her mark in life. She loved and kept in touch all her life with her best friend growing up, Sherry from Coboconk.
During three wonderful years in Bible College she made friends that have cared about and reached out to Phyllis for the rest of her life. The tributes expressed recently via social media are testament to the way she could welcome people into her life and love them as family. If Phyllis was here she would thank all those friends for their support and love during the challenging times of her life. Phyllis developed special friendships with Pat Trenholm and Faye Ward during these college years and looked forward to every phone call or short visit that could be squeezed in over the years with these special ladies.
Phyllis was struck with serious illness soon after college and met the challenge of committing her vows to Bruce by asking to be released from hospital the night before her wedding in Bobcaygeon and then returning to a rigorous schedule of kidney dialysis after a couple of days honeymooning in Niagara Falls in October of 1968. Phyllis eventually received a kidney from an unknown donor, whose family in their grief from losing a daughter in a fatal Toronto car accident, contributed the gift of life to a critically ill unknown recipient. They probably do not know that their gift kept our Phyllis alive and in excellent renal health for over 30 years.
From these challenging days just to stay alive, Phyllis was to begin a journey that defied the best predictions of her dedicated Doctors who suggested that she would could never be far away from the health support of the medical community in Toronto, never be a mother, probably not live for many years as transplantation was a relatively new development in medical science, and certainly not take on the responsibilities of a career.
In hindsight, we can now detail that Phyllis was not only able to be released from her caring medical community in Toronto, she ended up moving to Kingston, Ontario, Lyttleton, Saint John and Moncton, all in New Brunswick, Montreal, Quebec and then to Edmonton, Alberta. She shared her love with the wonderful congregations of these towns and cities and gained innumerable friends along the way. During these years she accepted and functioned at a high level as a pastor’s wife, encourager in chief to many young people, led bible studies, taught Sunday School, counselled those whose trust she accepted and cherished. Phyllis went on the be a preacher in her own right and was recognized by her denomination by being ordained. Phyllis also moved to and lived in Sylvan Lake and Ponoka during her tenure as a chaplain.
In 1972 Phyllis became mother to her son Shawn. Her gifts as a mom were evident immediately and she couldn’t wait to receive her daughter, Robyn in 1975. Phyllis took hold of her home and welded four unrelated-by-blood members into the loving family that she presided over to her death. Phyllis was so proud of the people that Shawn and Robyn have become. With equal enthusiasm, she embraced the arrival of grandsons Kaiden and Ryland, then later, Hailey and Hannah. Who could have ever known that this family would come into being and be glued together by the love and encouragement of this extraordinary lady besought by illness most of her life.
When Bruce was eventually sidelined by illness for many years, Phyllis just got on with life and fashioned a career in Chaplaincy that saw her associate with wonderful supervisors and fellow students and then go on be a practical guide and encourager to so many in health institutions and prison facilities. While balancing a home and career and addressing medical challenges, Phyllis pursed and obtained a Masters Degrees in her field.
It was during this time that Phyllis developed a circle of professional friends with whom she stayed closely in touch for the rest of her life, Caroline, Lynn and Lorna, self titled the “Sunshine Ladies”. It was also during this time that another fellow professional, Karen McLeod, extended to Phyllis the gift of life by becoming a living donor and giving one of her own kidneys after Phyllis’s original kidney failed. Our family will be forever grateful to Karen.
Phyllis will always be remembered for her zest for life and the wonderful contributions she made to so many people over the years. She is survived by husband Bruce, son Shawn and daughter-in-law, Kristin, daughter Robyn, grandsons Kaiden and Ryland and granddaughters Hailey and Hannah. Phyllis was wife, mother, mother-in-law and grandmother extraordinaire. We already miss her so much.
In lieu of floral tributes, donations in Phyllis’s honour made be made to the Kidney Foundation of Canada.
A tribute to my girl, Phyl, by husband Bruce.
Life for me was changed forever when I noticed a young lady on the Peterborough campus of Eastern Pentecostal Bible college in the fall of 1965. The picture is still vibrant in my mind: confident, big smile, dancing blue eyes and a warm acceptance of anyone she met. Dressed in high heels, white blazer and blue sweater, she captured my attention as she strode the sidewalk toward the C.B. Smith building.
This small-town guy from Vancouver Island, BC was intimidated yet curious, admiring from a distance such a beautiful young lady. I was fortunate that she was in the same class and I found myself keeping an eye on her from my desk toward the back of the class. Sometimes we do things against our better judgement and venture where we have no business venturing. Such was my audacity when I thought she appeared to be such a wonderful person that I would like to know her as a friend, never thinking it could be anything more. Yet, against my better judgement, this retiring and rather boring fellow began wondering if the impossible was possible. I didn’t really care if she had a guy back home, but if she did, he now had some competition. Little did I know at the time that our casual friendship would blossom and eventually flower into us spending the better part of 49 years together.
Shortly after our relationship began, fellow students began tattling to me of her escapades on campus until it became common for me to respond, “what did she do now” as if I bore some responsibility for her. It became a theme of our lives together and I was secretly proud that she was respectful of tradition but not bound by it. Whether in the church or in her secular relationships, she could disarm even the most reserved of traditionalists with her engaging smile and was soon leading her own parades. She was as comfortable with the sinner as she was the saint, often more so.
Her Irish heritage was most important to her and it bequeathed to her a wonderful gift for story telling. She was one of the most honest people you could know but when reciting incidents of her life she never let the facts get in the way of a good story. We all loved her for it. You may not have noticed, but Phyllis had a mind of her own and usually everyone else came to know what she was thinking. Once, when she and I were having a difference of opinion while living in Kingston, as per usual I was losing the argument, but all I could think was, “I’m really angry with you … but I really love you too”. How do you win against that?
Phyllis was a marvellous mother to our children and raised them to become the wonderful individuals they are now. She longed to be with her kids and encourage them in the ways of the Lord. She was always my rock steady partner in ministry and often was my counsellor when facing what seemed to be heavy responsibilities. She never used her illness to deflect her drive to care for people and it was easy for those looking on to think she never had a care in the world beyond those which they knew about. No husband could be prouder of his partner in life than I have been.
As her life was drawing to a close, her attention turned in a marked way to contemplating eternity. We often chatted about the theology of heaven and the mysteries that escape our ability to understand in time. Her eternal salvation was never in doubt to her, but she agonized over whether Jesus would be pleased with her life on earth when she was to see him. Increasingly her heart was drawn, like a compass needle turning north, to seeing the Lord and eventually my girl quietly slipped away to be embraced by her God.