Phyllis S. O'Neill
September 18, 1922 - October 22, 2020
Phyllis Schlesser O'Neill, a 63 year resident of Lemon Grove, died on Thursday, October 22, 2020, at 3:06 a.m. in San Diego. Phyllis Maxine Schlesser was born September 18, 1922, to Henry James Schlesser and Hildagard "Hilda" Catherine Pins on the family farm in rural Maurice, Sherman Township, Sioux County, Iowa; she was the second child in a family of five children. Phyllis attended a one-room country schoolhouse Sherman Township School #8. She graduated from Maurice High School. Upon graduation, Phyllis kept house for various families in town and eventually moved to Sioux City, Iowa. While working and attending business college in Sioux City, she met her future husband on a blind date Francis Joseph O'Neill, a native of Alaska. He was stationed at Sioux City Army Air Base. Francis served as a Captain in the Army Air Forces with the 8th Air Force, 388th Bomb Group during World War II in European combat operations. Phyllis relocated to Oak Park, Illinois, and accepted a position within the catalog department at Sears Roebuck in Chicago. Upon Francis' return from the war, he married Phyllis on October 13, 1945, at Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park, Illinois. Their honeymoon was a sleeper car train trip from Chicago to Seattle and then a steamer ship to Anchorage, Alaska. Phyllis and Francis made their home in Anchorage until moving to Lemon Grove in 1957. Phyllis was a devout Catholic and proud of her Faith. She served as a Lector at St. John of the Cross Parish for over 25 years. She was a member of Catholic Daughters of the Americas - Court Teresa of Avila #1580 for over 60 years, Ladies of Columbus - Our Lady of Grace Council, and St. John of the Cross Women's Club. Phyllis and Francis loved to play pinochle and bowl; they were active members of Court Teresa of Avila's Pinochle Group and Bowling League and looked forward to their frequent pinochle parties and weekly bowling. After Phyllis was no longer physically able to bowl, Francis continued to bowl for many years in the league, with Phyllis as his enthusiastic spectator!Phyllis retired from the State of California Employment Development Department. She enjoyed working in her garden during her retirement, tending her roses, apricot, avocado, lemon, orange, peach, and plum trees, and raising crops of tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus, boysenberries, and grapes. Growing up during the Great Depression, Phyllis learned to be thrifty from a young age. She was an excellent cook and baker. Phyllis possessed the ability to prepare delicious family meals from scratch for her husband and seven children on a tight budget. Each year Phyllis canned her own tomatoes and apricots and made apricot jam and preserves. Phyllis was also known for her delicious fruit pies: apple, apricot, and boysenberry, as well as baking her famous Turtle Cake and annually baking the O'Neill Family Fruit Cake recipe passed down to Phyllis from her beloved mother-in-law Florence!Phyllis' husband Francis, daughter Susan Margaret O'Neill Ferris, daughter-in-law Kathleen Jane Landers O'Neill, and sister Darlene Schlesser Barkowski predeceased her. Dearly loved by her family and friends, she is survived by her children: Mary Kathleen O'Neill (Larry Stoner) of Garden Grove, Robert F. of La Jolla, Thomas J. (Sherie) of Kerrville TX, Daniel J. (Linda) of Spring Valley, Mark H.W. of San Diego and Teresa O'Neill Topping (Woody) of El Cajon, son-in-law John R. Ferris, his wife Liz of Coto de Cazo; Grandchildren are Kaitlyn Antus (Joshua), Shannon Jones (Dalton); Leslie, Angela and Erin O'Neill; Nicholas and Christopher Topping; Meghan and Mary Teresa Ferris; great-grandchildren Jameson and Kylah Antus; step-grandsons Ronald Hillers and Sean Glidden; and step-great-grandchildren Kjersten and Elle Hillers; Charlotte, Coraline and Kingston Jones. Phyllis is also survived by her sisters: Carmen O'Brien of Jacksonville FL and Dolores H. Arens of Le Mars IA; her brother Robert Schlesser (Ruby) of Le Mars IA; her sister-in-law Sandra O'Neill of New Canaan CT; numerous nieces and nephews. More recently, Phyllis resided at Nazareth House in San Diego. The kindness, dignity, care, and love Phyllis received from the Sisters of Nazareth, staff, and caregivers (commonly referred to as the Angels of Nazareth by her daughter Teresa) at Nazareth House is deeply appreciated by her children and will never be forgotten. Services are as follows: Visitation on Friday, November 6, from 4:00 8:00 p.m. with Rosary at 7:00 p.m. at Featheringill Mortuary, 6322 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego.Mass of the Resurrection will be at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 7, at Holy Cross Chapel, 4470 Hilltop Drive, San Diego, with burial immediately following the Mass in Holy Cross Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Phyllis may be sent to Nazareth House 6333 Rancho Mission Rd., San Diego CA 92108, or CDA-Court Teresa of Avila #1580, 579 Elkelton Blvd., Spring Valley CA 91977.
Published in San Diego Union-Tribune on Nov. 1, 2020.