1980-07_Phyllis_in_Central_Park_NYC_crop
Phyllis McLean
  • 81 years old
  • Date of birth: May 25, 1930
  • Place of birth:
    White Plains, New York, United States
  • Date of passing: Apr 9, 2012
  • Place of passing:
    La Crescenta, California, United States
VITA BREVIS FAMILIA AETERNA (life is short, family is for always and for all time)

This memorial website was created in the memory of our loved one, Phyllis McLean, 81, born on May 25, 1930 and passed away on April 9, 2012. We will remember her forever.

Please feel free to contribute a story, photograph or memory of Phyllis. Many of us are scattered from coast to coast. It is hoped that this site will bring us closer together. 

A Memorial Service was held at 1:00 pm on Wednesday 15 August 2012 at St. James Episcopal Church, 355 West Maple Road, Birmingham, Michigan 48009. The eulogy is on the "Her Life" tab of this website. Her ashes are interred in the Church's columbarium.

The columbarium is located in an internal courtyard at St. James, just inside the Maple Street entrance. Upon entering the columbarium, look to the first section on the ground, directly in front of the door. There, you will find Phyllis and her husband, Tom, resting beside each other.

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Linda Downs on 16th May 2014

"I remember Phyllis as one of the most knowledgeable docents at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Perpetually lively, attentive, quick-witted and sure-footed at touring and engaging students and adults alike in that great collection. She had a wry sense of humor and often turned it on herself. I always felt that we shared a certain karma and I found it most enjoyable to spend time with her beyond the docent seminars. I enjoyed hearing about her botanical work at Cranbrook and only later realized what a force she was at that project as well as the DIA. She lives on in my best memories of my work at the DIA."

This tribute was added by Robin Fleck on 8th August 2012

"This is a lovely tribute, reflecting a life well lived.  My condolences to to Laura, Cathy and other family members."

This tribute was added by Sandy Gale on 6th August 2012

"What a wonderful tribute!  My deepest condolences.  I am so glad I was able to get acquainted with Phyllis before she left Michigan for her last years in California.  I was able to give her a big hug the last time I saw her.  I'm glad I have known Laura and Cathy all these years -- two wonderful daughters.  Your Mom -- one classy dame!"

This tribute was added by Gigi Koury on 5th July 2012

"Love the photos...especially the one with your mom and Sylvana on the  cable car in San Francisco.  And the one of you and your mom, linked by a rainbow, overlooking Niagara Falls.  What a magnificent life she had...and to have left such a legacy, her children, grandchildren and garden. Love and prayers to you and your family. G2"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 13th June 2012

"From Rita Lindstrom, ‘We still find ourselves at Cranbrook  saying, ‘What would Phyllis do?’ My most prominent memory was that she felt nothing was beyond the Auxiliary’s capabilities; she led us into creating beautiful exhibits at the DIA, Cobo Hall, Ann Arbor, etc. Phyllis always made what was really hard grunt work into fun and the results showed what an artist she was. We do miss her.'"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 13th June 2012

"From Dorothy Farmer, ‘Thank you for your thoughtful note on your mom’s passing. I was Garden Chairman, a huge job, as you know, at Cranbrook. Your mom was a tireless dynamo. Aloha to your family.’"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 13th June 2012

"From Anne Schwartz, Phyllis’ niece, ‘We were so sorry to hear about the passing of your mom. I still have fond memories of our time together. She really helped me with the flowers for my wedding and I will always appreciate it.’"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 13th June 2012

"From Irma Stevens, ‘I’m so sorry to hear of Phyllis’ passing. She was so talented and loved by her docent friends and being one I offer you my prayers. I also chaired the Docent Committee in 1980 and 81, and I looked up to her.’"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 13th June 2012

"From Karen Jallos, ‘I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother. Was anyone’s life fuller? I think not. She was beautiful impressive fun.’"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 13th June 2012

"From Gretchen Ellis, Phyllis’ niece, ‘Thank you for the note about your mother. We were so sad to hear of her passing away. We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers.’"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 13th June 2012

"From Gary Fleming, ‘Your mother influenced me in many ways. The ones that stand out are her work as a docent at the DIA and I will dedicate my tour on May 11th to her. She also was a great advocate of plant rescue and conservation. That is why I never mow my beach up north and I will think of her every summer as I look at my wildflower meadow.’"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 13th June 2012

"From Ruth Lefkowitz, ‘How sad, we lost Phyllis and [my husband] Julian, too sad. Julian passed away April 23rd. Phyllis, one of our favorite friends.’"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 13th June 2012

"From Julie Work, ‘I loved reading what you wrote about your mom! Some things I knew about Phyllis, and some I did not….she was an extraordinary woman!’"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 13th June 2012

"From Sue Johnston, ’The lilacs are beautiful this year. Spring arrived in March and the flowering trees and shrubs continue to be in bloom. Your mother and I worked very closely together at Cranbrook Gardens. I am sorry to hear of her passing. I learned much from her.’"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 13th June 2012

"From Chandra King, ‘I remember when Phyllis, Catherine and Sylvana visited me at the Cape. I will always remember the group of you walking along the beach. And another is when we went to visit Phyllis and sat under the apple tree having ice cream.’"

This tribute was added by Alison Donahue on 13th May 2012

"I remember going through the beautiful gardens Aunt Phyl had in her backyard.  She always pointed out new arrivals that she had gotten from the plant store or from trading with a neighbor.  She had some very “choice” plants in there and always insisted in calling each by its botanical name.  I looked forward to seeing the garden in the spring, and watching it develop through the season."

This tribute was added by Katy Irwin on 10th May 2012

"I know that Phyllis is now dancing peacefully among the clouds above (and noting how they resemble the cloud paintings in the DIA) and asking if there is a plot  to garden! I will fondly remember her big smile, warm laugh, good cheer, and gourmet Christmas cookies. But most of all, I will recall the decades of fun and  kindness she shared with my mother, Martha Irwin."

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 29th April 2012

"from Maryann at Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary via voice mail, 16 April 2012, ‘I’m so sorry to learn of Phyllis’ passing. She was a delight. I worked with Phyllis for over 25 years. I’m just so sad. She was a stable in this auxiliary and just full of information. She was a docent, a gardener and President of the Garden Section for many years... She was a saint and she will be missed.'"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 28th April 2012

"From Patty Taylor, 'We met all those years ago at St. James and then became the Frick and Frack of Cranbrook. She as Gardens Chairman - I as her assistant. And then there was the special group - Jerry & Patty Shea, Tom & Dory Izant, Tom & Phyllis and David & Patty Taylor. We had a lot of fun besides gardening!'"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 28th April 2012

"From Martha Irwin, 'Phyllis gone! Regardless of time or circumstance - it is a terrible loss....We met at the DIA and she became one of my dearest, closest friends for many years. Words cannot express how much we shared and how I miss her.'"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 28th April 2012

"From Anne Louise (Heine) McGonigel, 'I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to meet her and you and Sylvana during your travels around the US. It was a pleasure to visit with you all and become acquainted - I think often of that time with fondness.'"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 28th April 2012

"From Ginny Fox, '...She was a very talented person. I shall always think of her as brimming over with ideas, suggestions (mostly 'right on') and humor. Reading about her efforts to give to Cranbrook and the wider community (many activities I knew nothing about) only increases my admiration for her as a person and friend. i think she will always be remembered as a part of Cranbrook.'"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 28th April 2012

"From Barbara Hall, 'My memories of Phyllis will always be of younger years in her prime as a friend at Cranbrook Gardens. She was tireless in always promoting her next great idea for Cranbrook. I still can picture her digging in her 'holding garden' - a labor of love.'"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 28th April 2012

"From Sue Sutton, '[Your mother] was such (we used to say) 'a cutie' when I knew her 'back in the day' - both of us 'into' the education of our kids - cooking, gardening, supporting the music and arts in which we believed.'"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 28th April 2012

"From Wendy Evans, 'Your mother was a good friend, wonderful gardener and docent. I learned a lot from her and she will always have a very special place in my heart. '"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 28th April 2012

"From the DIA Volunteer Council, 'Phyllis played such a vital role as a docent for many, many years.  ...She was a gift to the DIA and the entire community.'"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 28th April 2012

"From Patty Shea, 'Part of my heart is missing. With the loss of Phyllis, I have lost a truly great friend, mentor, teacher, trouble-maker, wildflower rescuer and gardener. What fun we had creating together in so many events at the DIA, Ann Arbor and Cranbrook – and usually breaking all the rules....I was proud to have known her and she was such an important part of my life.'"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 28th April 2012

"Mom was an amazing mother! She raised two independent, creative, educated and successful daughters. What surprised me most was how much she did not talk about herself. While growing up, I never knew how well she'd done in school or that she dated a basketball player, was in the Queen's court at the H.S. senior prom, president of her WSU sorority....not even where she went on her honeymoon!"

This tribute was added by Catherine McLean on 16th April 2012

"Peter and the Wolf filled the house when Phyllis' children were young [Sylvana put this bit together minus the narration]. O Fortuna from Carmina Burana? She sang it with the Oakland University Chorus. Or you might hear Moonlight Sonata because there is an old phonograph recording of Mom at age 17, 'This is Phyllis Heine and I will now play Moonlight Sonata on the piano.'[need to digitize]"


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This memorial is administered by:

Catherine McLean

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