Mar. 28, 1920 - Mar. 12, 2014
Resident of Aptos
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Phyllis grew up in Elyria, Ohio. The first child of Harold Hull and Clela (Underwood) Hull she said she had a great childhood with trips to the city for shopping and Cleveland Indians baseball games with her younger sister Helen Louise. Summers were spent at the Underwood farm near Lodi, Ohio bringing in the cows each evening for milking and playing in the old barn with her cousin Marvin Underwood. Always an independent girl, her father taught her to drive well before she graduated from Elyria High School in 1937. She played the banjo-ukelele and piano, was a theatrical prompter, and loved sports.
While her parents wanted her to live at home and attend nearby Oberlin College, Phyl was determined to strike out on her own and headed for Kent State University, working throughout her college years to help pay for the additional expenses her family incurred. At Kent she was honored for leadership and scholarship, elected president of Engleman Hall, was on the editorial staff of the college paper, a member of the board of directors of the Women's Athletic Association, a counselor, summer school guide and leader for younger co-eds. Her goal to be a physical education teacher ended when she was told she was "too small". She settled on kindergarten-primary education. While at Kent, petite Phyllis blind-double-dated, switched partners, and ended up with her future husband, a very tall guy from Tampa, Florida, Joe D. Hanna Jr. She graduated from Kent in 1941 and began her career as a primary school teacher. This included teaching and sharing her lunch with illiterate, shoe-less adolescents and teenagers whose parents had left the hills to work in the war factories. She was not too small for that challenge.
She married Joe, now a B-17 pilot in the Army Air Corps in March of 1942 at Rollins College Chapel. As a married woman she was forced to leave the teaching profession. The war years included the crash landing of Joe's squadron on the Greenland Icecap and subsequent rescue in the summer of 1942, the birth of her first daughter (Maggie Reynolds) in 1943, near death from carbon monoxide poisoning in 1945, and her first trips west to the mountains and deserts she came to love.
The end of the war found the family in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where two more children were born (Penny Hanna and Joe D. Hanna III). With the baby boom came a demand for teachers, married or otherwise, and Phyl resumed her career, often working in the poorest schools. She frequently held neighborhood boot and jacket drives to help clothe her immigrant and migrant students during the cold Michigan winters. She was active in the League of Women Voters, the March of Dimes, PTA, the Gem and Mineral Society, and the Reserve Officers Association, where as convention chairman she initiated on-site day care for the young mothers attending conventions.
The family moved to the St. Louis area in 1963, and Phyl, always a doer, dove into the Crestwood, Missouri Welcome Wagon, the Garden Club, and continued teaching for the St. Louis Special School District. After retiring, she joined Joe in his Consulting Gemology business, which after his death in 1981 led to a career in fine and antique jewelry. She joined a lively group of singles at St. Lucas Church in Sappington, Mo. and enjoyed many years of camaraderie and travel. Always an exerciser, she joined a great group of women at the Crestwood Community Center, took up golf, and continued to ride her bike (when she wasn't driving her 1965 red Mustang). Phyl appeared on the Today Show in 1990 to receive a piece of her husband's B-17 with her name painted on it in 1942, retrieved from the Greenland Icecap by Pat Epps and Richard Taylor.
In 1997 Phyllis moved to Aptos, California to join her daughter Penny and husband Slim Heilpern, later to be joined by her oldest daughter Maggie. She was able to actively enjoy ballroom and big band dancing, theater, concerts of all types of music, and travel by boat, river barge, train, plane and automobile, frequently visiting her sister Helen Louis and husband Harry Kirkpatrick in Ohio and friends in St. Louis. She attended Kent State Homecoming in 2005 and her 70th High School Reunion in Elyria in 2007.
Phyl died quickly of pneumonia at Dominican Hospital. She is survived by her daughters Penny Hanna & Maggie Reynolds, son-in-law Slim Heilpern, her son Joe Hanna and grandsons Jesse, Travis and Sam and great-granddaughter Jade, brother Ronald Hull and his wife Kathy and their children Linda, Laura and Bill, her sister's children Peggy, James, Chris, and Barb, their spouses, children and grandchildren. Phyl's family thanks her support team of Christina/Visiting Angels and Ariana/Lifespan, Elderday, Viva, The Cabrillo College Stroke and Acquired Disability Center, and all the fine Doctors, RNs and staff at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Hospice of Santa Cruz, VNA, and Dominican Hospital.
Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel on Mar. 23, 2014