Phyllis Marie St. John, the only child of William and Charlotte (Lottie) Frank died on October 1st, 2019. She was born in 1925 in Wathena, Kansas and spent most of her formative years in a single parent home as her father was institutionalized in a veteran’s hospital. Lottie and Phyllis moved in with her maternal grandparents, German immigrants, John and Mary Rapp. Her German heritage valued music and included piano lessons and playing an alto saxophone she called Aphrodite in the school band. She also insisted that her children take piano lessons and was ahead of her time as science has proven many benefits from piano lessons. She never complained of being poor and there was always money for fresh fruit. Lottie worked as a domestic and taught Phyllis these skills. Phyllis graduated from Wathena High school in the midst of WWII (1943) part of a class of 22 students. Upon graduation, she was trained as a colorist and artfully hand tinted black and white portraits at Wicher's Photography Studio in Topeka. She met the love of her life, Robert St. John, at Kansas Avenue Methodist Church. Robert attended Kansas State on the GI Bill and the pair was married in June 1949 and moved to Manhattan Kansas. Robert entered the Physics Doctoral program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Phyllis worked in retail and the couple started teaching Sunday School at the local Methodist church.
In 1954 Robert joined the faculty at the University of Oklahoma where he taught physics for 36 years. They were members of McFarlin UMC and built a house "on some farmland southwest of campus'' where they raised their children, Glenn and Carol. Phyllis presided over the Valley View Garden Club for at least 3 years. She was involved in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout program as well as on the Camp Fire Girls executive council where she ran several candy drives. She taught the Kindergarten Sunday School class at McFarlin for more than 30 years. · She spent countless hours each Saturday arranging the puzzles and activities. Every detail down to the colors of the chairs was lovingly considered. She was also instrumental in establishing the McFarlin Day Care program, because she recognized many women could not stay home with their children like she did. Phyllis held McFarlin staff positions of Nursery Coordinator and Children's Coordinator.
Her other great passion at McFarlin was United Methodist Women and she held many leadership positions including President. Early on, she realized this was a superb way to get to know many of the young mothers of the church. Phyllis attended many summer School of Mission sessions at OCU. Phyllis led studies and included articles out of newspapers and magazines to make each study as current as possible. One of her talents was contacting members by phone just to let them know they were valued and to find out if they would be attending circle that week. When her circle met at McFarlin, she would go down early and set up the luncheon.
Phyllis was a creative person who sewed Halloween costumes and prom dresses, liked to try new recipes, put up a HUGE Christmas tree with lots of homemade ornaments and seasonally decorated her plate rail. She enjoyed puttering outside with her flowers, many of which were brought from Kansas. Phyllis loved feeding the birds and always maintained a sense of childhood wonder by picking up rocks, leaves and feathers. She was also an avid OU fan and attended many football and basketball games. After Robert retired from OU, the family took many trips together. Phyllis dreaded packing but seeing the world with her family made it worthwhile.
Although she had no advanced degree, she held her own with many who did, including a household of engineers. She was a cheerful, compassionate, resourceful woman who made the world a nicer place. Alzheimer's robbed her of many things the last decade of her life, but not her basic character of cheerful compassion. She is survived by her husband Robert and children Glenn and Carol.
A memorial service will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 30, 2019, at McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church in Norman.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Children's Choir Program at McFarlin.
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