Phyllis Gaines

Phyllis Reinker Gaines

Phyllis R. Gaines, Orinda, CA, passed away April 20, 2013, just short of her 78th birthday. An elementary school teacher and an inspiration to both hearing-impaired and hearing students over a 40-year career, she succumbed to respiratory failure after a three- year struggle with illness. Phyllis died at John Muir Hospital, Walnut Creek, CA, surrounded by her husband, children, son-in-law and grandchildren.

Upon graduation from Roosevelt High School, Kent, Ohio, in 1953, she completed course work for a Bachelor of Education Degree in three years from Kent State University, specializing in Education of the Deaf. After teaching in Akron and Dayton, Ohio, she visited her brother at Stanford and met a Navy Officer at the Moffett Field Officer's Club. Four weeks later she was engaged, which led to 55 years of marriage.

The week after becoming engaged, she interviewed to teach at the State School for the Deaf in Berkeley, now UC's Clark Kerr Campus. She was hired immediately in the first interview, even without her college transcript, which still was in Ohio. She later taught hearing-impaired children in Burlingame, before transferring to hearing students in the Oakland Unified School District, while raising three children. She retired from the OUSD in 1997.

A dedicated, compassionate and tireless teacher at Allendale and Carl B. Munck Elementary schools in Oakland, she excelled at nurturing the talents of her fourth, fifth and sixth grade students. Many knew her as one who "kept her cool" amidst chaos; who laughed a lot and focused on what was important, not "sweating the small stuff." In the classroom, she considered herself a conductor, more than a teacher. She was always using her own funds to augment needed classroom supplies and to assist students with personal needs. Phyllis was a sterling credit to all that is good about the elementary school teaching profession.

Following retirement, her most cherished moments were those spent with her family at home and while travelling abroad. "Noni" is survived by her husband, Milton, her children Melissa (and son-in-law Curtis Hagfeldt), Preston, Andrew (and daughter-in-law Lily Gaines) and grandchildren Ryan and Jack Hagfeldt and Jonathan Gaines, all living in the San Francisco Bay Area, and by her brother, Leonard Reinker of Kent, Ohio.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Oakland Rotary Endowment for placement of a library in every new "Transitional Kindergarten" classroom in the Oakland School District: Oakland Rotary, Attn: Lori Cloutier, 1736 Franklin St., Suite 200, Oakland, CA 94612, ph. (510) 451-2120, or email at ""

Memorial Celebration, Friday, May 17, 2013, 3:00PM at Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, 49 Knox Drive, Lafayette, CA 94549.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on May 12, 2013