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Phyllis Jane Briggs passed away on March 27, 2013 at age 90 after a 19-year battle with Parkinson's disease.
Phyllis was born April 30, 1922 in Worcester, Massachusetts of parents Annabelle Lewis and Jacob Davidson. Throughout her childhood and youth she took dancing lessons and became a very accomplished tap dancer as a young woman. She was active in the Tatnick Congregational Church, and she was Worthy Advisor of the Worcester Order of Rainbow Girls. She graduated from Commerce High School in 1940 and went to work on the early IBM punch card machines.
In 1942 she married Charles D. Briggs, Jr., a graduate of Clark University, who had just enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Their first child Carol Dianne was born days before Charlie shipped off to the South Pacific. Their second daughter, Charlene Dee, was born after he returned home as a war hero. His military career, which spanned three wars, took them to California, back to Massachusetts, to Texas, to Massachusetts, and finally to Maryland. During the Viet Nam War, Phyllis was active in the Red Cross and was the volunteer director of the Ponderosa, a welcome center for wounded warriors returning through Andrews Air Force Base. Upon Charlie's retirement as a Brigadier General in 1971, they moved to Indialantic, Florida where Charlie created the Indian River Colony Club, a retirement community for retired military officers. Charlie passed away in 1987.
As a young mother Phyllis started teaching dancing lessons in her home. As they moved around, she would start a new dancing school. In Maryland and then in their retirement home in Florida, Phyllis established large dancing schools that trained hundreds of young girls and even a few boys in tap, ballet, jazz, and acrobatics. A number of students from the Phyllis J Briggs School of Dance went on to win regional and national dance competitions. Charlie was often the MC for the large annual dance recitals that drew sell-out crowds. Phyllis held her last dance recital in 1994 at the age of 72, the year she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
Even with the progression of Parkinson's disease, Phyllis continued to make a contribution to her church and community by teaching liturgical dance to young girls at her church for several years. She was a much loved figure in her community with her big smile and sunny personality. She moved to her daughter's house in Durham, NC in 2010 where she was cared for by her family.
Phyllis leaves behind a brother, Stanley Davidson; two daughters, Dianne (David Martin) and Charlene (Joseph Crupi); five grandchildren, Cheryl (Damien Makarushka), Jennifer (Peter Minnelli), Diana (Timothy Morahan), Charles, and Laura (Sam Garrison); and 11 great grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at Post Hall on Ft. Myers at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in the near future.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Florida United Methodist Children's Home, 51 Children's Way, Enterprise, FL 32725.
Published in FLORIDA TODAY on Apr. 2, 2013