Obituary of Phyllis Jean Whitley
With profound sadness we announce the passing of Phyllis Jean (Morton) Whitley, a loving mother, grandmother, sister, auntie, and friend on January 19, 2021. Phyllis touched many people with her kindness and generosity; she was never one to miss an important milestone and her astute listening made all those she cared about feel like the most important person in the room. Phyllis was born a leap year baby on February 29, 1940 to Verda Elizabeth (Lewis) Morton and Earl Thomas Morton in Sterling, CO, but spent the majority of her life in Lafayette, CO. She passed at the age of 80, or 20, depending on how you calculate her birthday, which is important because she always had a young spirit. She died from a sudden brain bleed while staying with her son and his family in Bellingham, Washington. Throughout her youth and well into adulthood, Phyllis spent summers relaxing at her family’s cabins in Red Feather Lakes, CO where she fished with her dad and cousins, winning numerous contests, and taught her son to catch crawdads using hotdogs as bate. Whether from the woods, the back porch or her favorite park bench, one of Phyllis’s great loves was watching wildlife. In her last months, she delighted in watching deer roam the yard, hummingbirds fight over the feeder and bald eagles dive into the nearby lake. The fact that she preferred mild weather- ideally between 60 and 70 degrees, seems fitting given that it was a perfect 68 degrees the day she was born, despite it being the middle of winter. Although she had no love for cooking, she always made time to make pizzelle cookies for Christmas, fulfilling both her insatiable sweet tooth and her desire to make her family happy. She loved to crochet and knit, and made every person in the family a blanket, sometimes two or three, as was the case with her beloved son and grandson. With her patient, loving demeanor, Phyllis had a natural gift for teaching and spent much of her career and personal time educating and supporting others. After attending Colorado State College (now University of Northern Colorado) she taught in Yuma, CO, then worked in banking for a few years before devoting herself to raising her son. Phyllis was as committed a mother as one can be, attending every field trip, cheering at sporting events and creating handmade gifts for his classmates on holidays. She was a regular classroom helper and a frequent participant in the PTA, devoted not just to helping her son, but all children. In a similar way, she spent much of her free time engaged with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW Post 1771) in Lafayette. Once her son was grown, Phyllis returned to the classroom and ended her career working with special needs children. Her calm, generous spirit made it so that she was always willing to take in children who needed support and she did so routinely. She could calm a screaming baby, teach nearly any subject to a struggling student, and pursue her own learning with abandon. Most recently she delighted in her deep connection with her 10-month-old grandson, who she taught to say hi, stand, make new noises, and blow bubbles. In her younger years Phyllis loved walking along the beaches in Texas and even as she aged, she visited her son and his wife around the country, vising them in St. Croix, USVI, New York City, Michigan, New Jersey and Washington. In her day-to-day life, Phyllis was a quiet woman, but she came alive when she listened to her favorite music- Red Skeleton, Elvis and Bette Midler- cheered for her beloved Broncos and Avalanche, enjoyed a classic taco Tuesday, and yelled at the players of Big Brother, a show she watched with her son for 22 consecutive seasons. Five years ago, Phyllis moved to Windsor Gardens, a 55+ community. During that time, she made wonderful friends, attended water aerobics, played canasta, and participated in various hobbies and activities. The move gave her new life and she thoroughly enjoyed her time there and the friends she made. Phyllis is survived by her sister and husband Marty and George McCorkle; her son and his wife Cameron and Melanie Whitley, her four nieces and their husbands Michelle and Scott Butterfield, Ashley and Keith Carnwath, Dakota Carnwath and Shealynn Baker; her 4 nephews and their wives Michael Alexander, Zachary and Sarah Baker, Levi Carnwath and Jameson Baker; and one grandchild Oliver “Sprout” Whitley. Her husband, Ray Edgar Whitley preceded her in death in 1994. Family gatherings were one of the most important parts of her life and with that in mind, the family has decided that a virtual funeral just will not do. Phyllis will be laid to rest in the Lafayette Colorado Cemetery with her parents. A graveside service will be held in Lafayette, CO in the summer of 2021 followed by refreshments at the VFW Post 1771 where she was a member. A celebration of life will be held at Windsor Gardens 55+ Community in Denver, CO. Dates for these events are to be determined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to your favorite charity in Phyllis’ name or to the VFW Post 1771 Mile High 110 S. Boulder Rd. Lafayette, CO 80026. 303-665-9993.
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