With sadness, we announce the peaceful passing of Phyllis Wilkinson on July 25, 2020, in the home she shared with her family, Marsha and Bob Waunch.
Born in Bristol, England, Phyllis was orphaned at the age of 15 and, in the custom of the time, raised by other family members. As the oldest of four siblings, she struck out on her own after graduating from Greenbank Girls’ School. By the beginning of WWII, Phyllis had been joined by her sister, Dorothy, with whom she shared a tiny efficiency apartment. During the war, while working in the office for the Bristol Airplane Co., she learned skills that enabled her to progress through many positions during her long business career. In 1942, Phyllis married dashing Coldstream Guards Captain, Cuthbert (Wilky) Willkinson. Within a few years, the household had grown to include daughter, Marsha.
With the encouragement of her sister Dorothy, Phyllis, Wilky and Marsha applied to immigrate to the United States. In 1949, the family made the crossing aboard a passenger liner that had been converted to a troop ship, not the most comfortable accommodations with men on one side and women on the other. Settling in Memphis, Tennessee in September’s heat was quite a shock to the woolen garbed family.
Phyllis became the office manager of a startup company, Memphis Can Co. As it grew into a much larger corporation with offices in multiple cities, she became executive secretary/treasurer of the expanded company. She maintained this position until she retired after 33 years.
In the years after her husband’s death in 1978, Phyllis traveled extensively with friends but realized being closer to her small family was more important. In 1989, she joined Marsha and Bob in the building of her Orcas Island home. Immediately immersing herself in the community, Phyllis volunteered at Orcas Center, the Library and the Garden Club as treasurer. She served as treasurer of the Orcas Animal Protection Society for many years and oversaw the finances of the shelter’s construction.
Phyllis proudly told friends she felt she had three lives. Her first in England, the second in Memphis and the third on Orcas. Of the three, she noted Orcas was the best.
There will not be a service since Phyllis was one of the fortunate few able to attend her own Celebration of Life: On February 28th, Phyllis graciously reigned over her 100th birthday party with many Orcas friends.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests remembrances be made in the form of contributions to the Orcas Animal Shelter, 84A Hope Lane, Eastsound, WA 98245.