In Memoriam, Jean Phillips, 1953-2014

In Memoriam, Jean Phillips, 1953-2014

This page is for those who knew and loved Jean to post pictures and remembrances, long or short. Feel free to post text remembrances in the comments section here.

Edie Jarolim, Tucson, AZ

I’ve met many wonderful people through this blog. I never know when a relative I didn’t know I had or someone with information about Freud or rolled beef might turn up.  But no one I met here impacted my day-to-day life more than Jean Phillips, who died on Thanksgiving day in Sedona in a freak hiking accident. She was walking ahead of her husband, Dave, and one of her two sons, Ryan, when she slipped and hit her head on a rock. She never recovered. 

Jean found my blog a little more than a year ago and sent me an email, saying she was also doing genealogical research on her mother who, like my parents, was a Viennese Jew who escaped the Holocaust. She lived in Tucson, she said. Would I like to meet for coffee?

Louise Manning, Jean's mother, her grandmother, and father

Louise Manning, Jean’s mother, mystery relative (great aunt?), and father Ephram Lester Manning

We met and had a very good conversation about her family research and mine, but I have hermit-like tendencies, so I didn’t follow up.  That didn’t bother Jean. She had decided we would be friends, and that was that. Many people stand on ceremony: You call me to get together and then I have to call you or you take offense and think I don’t like you. I’m that way myself. Not Jean. She was the least thin-skinned person I know. She never got insulted if you said no to something she thought you should do or have. But if you sounded even vaguely interested in anything she suggested, she would make it happen–often knowing before you did what you wanted or needed. 

She enlisted her other friends and her family in these projects too. I told her I had a friend in town who was interested in moving here. She immediately found a friend of hers who knew the real estate scene. My computer was giving me agita. She got her husband, Dave, a Mac guru, to help me.

She was a force of nature, with boundless energy and a steel trap memory.

As everyone who knows Jean knows, she gathered much of her information during walks, which she soon got me to take with her. Her first choice was to walk outdoors, but when the weather made that impossible, we walked indoors–at the Udall sports center, occasionally, once even at a mall, where we got sidetracked when Jean remembered I needed to buy sheets and towels for my guesthouse because a tenant had absconded with them, and here we were near a home furnishings discount store. I didn’t have money with me, I protested. No problem. She had a credit card, and I could pay her back.

Our deceptively small walking coach, Madeleine

Our deceptively small walking coach, Madeleine

For the last six months, if both of us were in town, Jean and I walked every weekend. When I adopted a dog, Madeleine, in July, Jean was happy to adapt her schedule to ours. We were both pleased to discover that Madeleine was small but swift, with unflagging energy; she never tired before we did. We called her our walking coach.

I don’t have family in town and, although I have Jewish friends, none of them are as endlessly interested as Jean and I both were in the bigger questions surrounding the past, how they impacted the dynamics of our childhoods, how they played out in the world. Was antisemitism spreading again? we wondered. We exchanged book suggestions.

But mostly while we walked we talked about more mundane topics, her work, my work, renters. Isn’t that interesting, she would often say, in response to something I brought up, pronouncing it “inneresting.” Jean had a knack for making you feel like you were the most fascinating person in the world.

Probably the most constant topic was family, past and present, especially present. While always telling me how successful, talented, and smart they are, Jean worried about her sons, Todd and Ryan. She wanted life to be perfect for them. Several times on the way to our walks she stopped off and cleaned Ryan’s refrigerator, which she said was gathering mold. Did she want to clean mine too, I often joked.

But here’s the thing. At one point, Jean decided I would be a member of her family too. She did clean my refrigerator, or at least the refrigerator in my guesthouse, when told her I needed to be late for a walk because a tenant was coming in unexpectedly early, and that I had to get the place ready.  I’ll help you, she said, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She just did it.

I really enjoy living on my own, but sometimes worry that, because my social life is erratic, no one would find me and take care of Madeleine if something happened to me. Jean provided structure. I was confident that she would track me down if she didn’t hear from me and, yes, make sure that Madeleine was taken care of.

In one case, her adoption of me into the family fold was literal. Because Jean knew that I am always worried about money, she decided I should be on her T-Mobile family plan. Why not, she argued? Five people are allowed and they don’t have to be blood relatives. Why wouldn’t I want to pay only $8.50 a month? I agreed but, as usual, dragged my feet, in part because I felt a bit like an intruder. Jean wasn’t having any of that. She called the T-Mobile representative, gave me all the information, and made sure I saw my end of the transaction through too. I’d finally decided that I had nothing to lose. It was a bargain, and I couldn’t imagine that Jean and I wouldn’t continue to be friends.

And I couldn’t imagine that Jean wouldn’t be around for a long, long time. I can’t even begin to tell you how furious I am that she isn’t.

Also, a little worried. Dave, if you’re reading this, promise me you’ll remember to pay the phone bill.

Friederike Almstedt, Tucson, AZ

Shortly after I started working at Sunquest, a co-worker who I had only seen in passing gave me a copy of all the funny and witty things her young sons had uttered in the past year. How odd, I thought to myself, or how ‘extra-ordinary’ as that coworker herself would have said, while being by no means less opinionated and judgmental than I.


Bob Cook (Friederike Almstedt’s husband) and Jean

I don’t recall when we became friends. It happened slowly. We worked together, then e-mails started to appear in my in-box with the ever tempting subject line “Walkies???.” And walkies we did, short and long, squeezing through hedges and climbing over walls to get to El Dorado Country Club Estates where the streets were long and windy enough to match our need to converse.

We quickly discovered that there was one topic that neither of us could let go of, a wound that united and separated us, Jean the Jewish American from Iowa, and me the Lutheran German from Germany. In a world with little patience for history and complexities, we indulged our obsession, circling around the subjects of emerging dictatorship, mass hysteria, Holocaust. Our families. Truth. Imagination. Justifications. Guilt. Ours and theirs. Lives forever changed. Lifelong quests.  Questions not answered. And to our great dismay, lessons not learned.

Jean loved lessons. I was far more skeptical. She saw opportunities for lessons everywhere, for all of us, but especially for her kids. I’d argue for letting go, letting them live and make mistakes. She’d agree and keep on teaching, finding pointers and lessons to share with them. Bob and I were part of Jean’s lesson in sustainability and natural building materials and she organized field trips to our house, first for the kids and eventually her siblings and her mother. We were exhibits in Jean’s never-ending commitment to lifelong education.

Jean was famously generous, maddeningly self-effacing at times, totally devoted to her family and friends. Opinionated and quick to judge, she was never stuck with those judgments. She had the courage to change her mind. She was a scientist. She observed. And if she had to change her hypothesis, she did.

Oh, I will miss my friend – full of contradictions. She always made time to be with you–while also always seemingly in a rush–unless you were walking together. She wanted to know all about your life, but had to first get something out about her own. She was so generous and super ‘efficient.’ No restaurant meal of which parts did not disappear into a doggy bag as a meal for Dave.

For many years, we’d swap stories about her mother and my father and our trips to see them in Iowa and Germany respectively. Jean always a couple steps ahead of me. We compared notes. Luise, with her beautiful face, her lilting Viennese accent was so central to Jean’s life and love of family. Jean created a nuclear family, but also, throughout her life, an extended family of former roommates, professors, colleagues, high school friends, mother’s caretakers, best friends from then and now, and newfound distant relatives. This introvert had a voracious appetite for human relations! Thank you for your friendship!

Dorian Pritchard,  Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

I first met Jean as her postgrad. project teacher at the University of Edinburgh, where I had the  responsibility of teaching her how to grow cultures of chicken lens epithelial cells and getting them to produce beautiful little “lentoid bodies” like little lenses in the culture dish. We soon discovered Jean was a bit different from the other students when her cultures at first produced beautiful growths of yeast instead. Being Jean, she had been baking bread over the weekend and I recognised her then as a fellow survivalist. When she and Dave married I sent them a congratulatory telegram from the lentoids. She later confided that our friendship was the best thing that came out of that course!

When Jean was choosing a place for us to eat in downtown Tucson she asked “Do you have bagels in Britain?” I answered, “Yes, but we call them beagles.” She found that so funny she told everyone we met. Britain is now the richer for having both beagles and bagels.

 Lisa duBois, Stow, MA

I can’t tell you how shocked and sad I am. Jean was the sort that out-energized everybody – she was supposed to go on forever. Jean and I were colleagues and friends since we both worked at Optical Sciences  (UA) eons ago. She and Dave were married in our backyard, Peter’s and mine – when she asked, I told her sure, but not too many people – the yard isn’t that big. You know Jean – there was a cast of thousands, it seems, and it couldn’t have been more fun. Jean and our friends the Bakers stood up with Peter and me when we got married in 1983. She took about a zillion pictures – I have a whole albumful! We enjoyed some great Arizona hikes over the years but when I retired from the UA, I moved to New England – but we kept in touch.   I’ve always enjoyed her newsy Christmas letters, and of course, wished that I’d been better at keeping in touch.

Jean's wedding pictures


Darlene Tessier (Dave’s Sister), Orlando, FL

I’m so sorry that I wasn’t able to come to the Memorial Service, but just wanted to say a few words about Jean.   Not only was she a wonderful wife to Dave and mother to both Todd and Ryan, but she was a great Daughter-in Law and Sister-in-Law as well. She always amazed me with her boundless energy, and she was so easy to get along with. Jean was the one person behind getting our families together for mini-reunions in Florida. I’ve attached a picture of the last time the whole clan was together in Orlando a few years ago. She always made us laugh. I remember when Ryan and Todd were young, she would email the funny things that they said during the year. Jean definitely had a talent for writing.

Jean was also a very giving person. When Grandma Doris fell a few years ago, Jean spent a lot of time researching things for us regarding her care and insurance. It was extremely helpful to me.

Dave, Todd and Ryan — I am so very sorry for your loss and know that the days ahead will be difficult and sad. Dwell on how much your lives were blessed and enriched by Jean’s presence.   Please know that I love you all very much and hope that this tragedy will bring us closer together as a family. You are always welcome to come visit us in Orlando.


Dave’s family in Orlando

Elizabeth Boesen, Penn Yan, NY

My name is Elizabeth Ebinger Boesen. Jean and I met when I called myself Beth Ebinger and we were both freshmen at Augustana College. Jean introduced me to her family early on, as they lived locally in Davenport, IA, and soon after, invited me to hike with her and (I believe) the Triple or Quad Cities Hiking Club.

Somehow we both elected to work at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park Colorado the summer of ’71, and suffered – with many moments of joy as well – as housekeepers with other folks from all over. In our spare time we enrolled in the Volunteer Hikemaster program at the Y, learning mountaineering, flora and fauna, and so forth. This precipitated my falling in love with mountains, wildlife, and hiking in wild places. Among hikes that we did together on days or afternoons off were to the Pool of Jade above Emerald Lake (off trail!) and Thunder Lake (very long hike in and out for an afternoon outing!) We dubbed each other TweedleDee and TweedleDum, which likely stemmed from our Fantasy Lit class at Augie. My hiking friend proved her true passion and could NOT follow directions and landed seat first in a patch of prickly pear – Jean did the delicate spine removal work and honestly did not get as much mileage out of that story that she certainly could have! Amazingly, I came back to the Y as a hikemaster for several more college summers.

Jean’s marriage and family preceded mine by a number of years and yet we managed to connect when I came to Arizona for continuing education and to visit my parents in Fountain Hills east of Scottsdale. I enjoyed her and Dave’s hospitality on Mt Lemmon one January – snowshoeing, I believe, and staying warm, and learning to drink cocoa almost without sugar at all! Then there were the big snow masses that fell off the van everytime we turned a corner back in Tucson!

Passion and compassion have kept us connected – most vividly for me, following the car accident that my family was in mid-August 2008 that claimed my husband Bret’s life. My Cedar Rapids cousin connected with our friend Pam’s sister Cheryl, Cheryl contacted Pam, Pam contacted Jean, and Jean contacted Carol Baum in Syracuse, a few blocks from the hospital where my daughter and I were, and where I stayed for rehab through 10 September of that year. Carol was in my hospital room the day afterwards, and nearly every day after that – hosted my cousin who stayed by me for the first week of rehab, herself a deep well of passion and compassion that kept me in the land of the living. Friendship has strong nerves muscles, and ligaments, I discovered all over again. Jean visited me – with Carol – the summer following when she came for a visit to Upstate NY.

Jean’s passion and compassion for nature and wildness; her “taking me there” helped me discover something of the very core of my being that I had little inkling of until I was 18 years old. I began to own and exercise it through our friendship. A new outbreak of this passion in my life has been hawkwatching since last spring – thanks to a webcam and a pair of redtail hawks on the Cornell U campus who raise their offspring before hundreds high above an athletic field. One of the fledglings this year injured his wing by getting trapped in an automated greenhouse window. Short story— in my eyes, this 8-month old “juvie” has redefined “celebrity” — for he has been watched, rescued, treated, cared for, wept over, adored, and cheered on to live and thrive as a “rehabbing-teaching bird” in the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s Raptor program. (Note: for certified hawkaholics, his name is E-3.)

I trust that Jean will understand and embrace my exclamation that she too properly expresses and thus redefines “celebrity-hood.” I so long to be part of those who gather and hike on Saturday to Celebrate the Life she fostered, incited, elicited, en-joyed and en-couraged, and shared so thoroughly with (I sense) so many. I will miss laughing and weeping with you all and do cherish being part of this community of passion and compassion even from a distance. (I am just returning to New York from Iowa and my hoped for trip to Arizona just can’t work out till January.) My heart and core go out to all of us who grieve.

Judi Alamia, Tucson, AZ

When I was preparing to move to my townhouse in 2002, I mentioned to Jean that the carpets in the bedrooms were old and worn and needed to be pulled up. She immediately volunteered herself and her sons to help. I expect that almost anything would have been preferable for Todd and Ryan on a weekend. And yet, they showed up and worked diligently, clearly influenced by their mother’s energy and devotion to helping people.
Jean encouraged me to exercise regularly, not by admonishing me for not doing it, but by emailing or calling and suggesting we walk around my neighborhood or the track at Udall. We walked frequently, catching up and sharing stories, for figuring out people and the inevitable ups and downs of life. I know she walked, hiked, and biked with others, and I expect every one of those folks felt that Jean was making a special space in her life for them. One of the last things Jean said to me was to remind me that any time I wanted to walk, I should just give her a call.
I expected her to always be around, and I took that for granted, since she was younger, healthier, and much more people-focused. So I never took a photograph of Jean. I’m glad others did.


Don Davis, Tucson, AZ

Jean was a long-time hiking friend from the Southern Arizona Hiking Club which is where I also met Dave (meeting him for the first time, he told me that he was an engineer working for a company that I had never heard of – Science Applications Inc.  I replied that not only had I heard of it but also worked for them but in a different Tucson office!  Small world.)

Jean and I mostly crossed paths on the trail, getting to know one another while doing one of our favorite things in all the world.  It was such a pleasure to see that she was on the hike so that we could discuss each other’s family, interests, world problems – all of which we would have great solutions for.  Her bright smile, keen intelligence and warm personality will be deeply missed.  The trail will be a little longer and a lot emptier without her to share it with, but I am thankful for the times we shared.

My deepest sympathy to Dave, Todd and Ryan.

Dave and Jean, ca 1981

Dave and Jean, ca 1981

Linden Hickey, Tucson, AZ

My first thought when I saw an email from Jean titled “Jean Phillips” last Sunday morning was “Great! Man oh man, Jean’s really right on the ball with her annual Holiday update on the happenings in the Phillips’ household…I can’t wait to read what they’re all up to these days.” But sadly, instead my mouth dropped open in complete shock when I read Dave’s message to her family and friends.

Jean and I became friends when our boys, Todd and Alex, were classmates at Castlehill Country Day School. We shared a lot of “mom” time together with school activities, Cub Scouts, and hockey at Iceoplex. You really bond a lot when you’re tugging on ice skate laces and showing up for practice before dawn in the cold hockey rink, believe me!

Those who have spent any time at all with Jean know how much of her world revolved around her family and how especially proud she was of her boys, Todd and Ryan. Her sense of humor is legendary – and I always looked forward to seeing the annual “Todd and Ryan-isms” she would send out each holiday to chronicle the funny and interesting stories of the things the boys had said and done during the previous year. I marveled that she was organized enough to capture all of these gems and then manage to recount them at the end of each year.

One of my most favorite “Jean” memories is when one day at school pick-up (and I believe it was a hot Tucson afternoon), Jean announced that she had to go home and “strip!” I looked at her sideways and said, “What…???” And she laughed and said, “Oh, I guess that didn’t sound right, did it…I’m stripping paint off the molding on the door frames at the house!” I said, “Whew, glad you clarified that!”

Once the boys graduated to their high school years, she wisely backed off embarrassing them quite so much and kept us apprised of their family antics in a more traditional holiday newsletter format. While we did not have much regular contact, it was often these holiday missives that prompted a phone call to “catch up” that lasted well over an hour, as we laughed and shared what we had been up to over the past months. Catching up with Jean was a wonderful experience full of life – laughter, moans, and groans – as we each related our activities and the comings and goings of those in our lives. We always closed by pledging that this next year, we’d be better about actually getting together for lunch. Didn’t happen, but our intentions were good.

I was especially intrigued to talk at length with her after her mother’s passing when she shared her mother’s story about her flight from Nazi Germany to the US. I hope that you, Todd and Ryan, will continue where she left off in capturing those memories for posterity – they are important and fascinating, yet chilling, times in our history, and your grandparents’ story is valuable to share. Jean may have left us in a physical sense, but the many special memories of her unique and delightfully quirky personality will be with us in our hearts. Especially at this time as we pause together to remember our friend, mother, wife, co-worker…however you knew her, may you be forever grateful for the way she touched your life. We will miss her infectious laugh and smiling eyes, but the memories of our time together will last forever. Godspeed, Jean. Keep ‘em laughing until we meet again.

Emily Bryant, Orford, NH

There are so many facets to each person’s life, and Jean must have had more than most. Here’s a brief view from one: a friendship from her days as a grad student at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire in the late 1970’s. Even though I wasn’t a biology grad student, she included me in various get-togethers and outings in that era. She and Carol Edwards and I went on a camping trip to Prince Edward Island in 1980.

Jean was never afraid to reach out to people, and was always bringing people together and making things work. After Jean left Dartmouth we kept up mostly through holiday cards (how did she have time to write up those Todd and Ryan quips?) until I got a phone call from her sometime around 2007. She was planning to attend the conference on Women at Dartmouth, and would I like to go too, and could she stay at my house? Of course she could, but then how I would make the house presentable for a Guest-with-a-capital-G? I must not have remembered – Jean was not the Guest-with-a-captial-G sort of person — she was always comfortable to be with; the house didn’t matter, the people did. During this visit she also somehow re-connected me with Carol, and tracked down and visited with her landlady from 30 years before, a wonderful woman who was involved in the German Resistance in World War II. Does this sound like Jean?

After that, Jean organized several vacation outings with Carol and me and others, and there were many opportunities to sit of an evening to discuss the nature of the world and people, as well to have adventures in the daytime. And to laugh a lot.

Here’s a quote from one of Jean’s emails. I think I can hear her voice:

“Heidi meet Emily, Emily meet Heidi. There–we’ve all met now! Emily: Heidi is a philosopher and author. Heidi: Emily is a geographer in New Hampshire. You already have tons in common–your names both end in an i/y sound and your affiliations all end in an ur sound. Well, heck!! :)”

How I’ll miss that voice!

Dori (and Jim) Jurgenson

Jean was so bright, interesting and energetic! We were friends for more than half of our lives, and always had so much fun together! I never knew anyone who could pack so many activities into one day, yet it never seemed hurried. She was also, for me at least, a kind of ‘soul-mate’ friend. We were always there for each other, and even when we didn’t speak or see each other for long periods, we could pick up where we left off as though we hadn’t been apart.

What always impressed me – and probably anyone who knew her for long – was her devotion to her family: she so loved and needed Dave, and she enjoyed their sons as they grew. She worried when they were sad or not sure what they were going to do next, and was so proud and happy when they found and pursued their passions and grew into successful adults.

Even as we grieve this loss, I know it is many orders of magnitude worse for Dave, Todd, and Ryan. One aches to say or do something, yet
there is no way to help. We will keep her – and all of them- in our hearts always.

Cara, Tucson, AZ

Hiking Jean 1
These pictures were taken Dec. 17 2006 when a group of us from work (SAIC at the time) did part of the La Milagrosa/Agua Caliente Canyon loop starting from Horsehead Road. Enjoying the canyon view, from left to right, are Jean, Sarah and Stephen.
Jean Hiking 2

For some reason, I have a vivid memory of Jean on that hike and this helped me find these photos squirreled away on a dusty shelf full of old CDs and DVDs. It certainly wasn’t the most beautiful time of year, very dry and no flowers. I had drifted off many times to take photos of plants, like this one

When I showed them to Jean, she got a very serious look and she said that she wondered whether I had been on the same hike as everyone else.

Like many things Jean said, I was initially very confused. I decided that meant she liked my photos, but then again, she might have thought I was antisocial and rude. I was just getting to know Jean in 2006. After getting to know her better on many more walks and hikes, I grew to love her brusque replies and commentary.

 Jan Patterson, Tucson

Jean ca 2003I met Jean around 1993 at our mutual employer, Sunquest. For the first year or two we worked in different departments, but our paths would occasionally cross and we’d have a short chat about work or family. We later worked in the same department for many years. This photo is from about 2003.

I’m not sure there was a specific point when we became friends … we just were. Jean had a wonderful curious nature! And I was always amazed by her busy schedule, the “rush,” and at the same time her compassion and sincerity. I never knew Jean to have a hidden agenda; she never left me guessing about what she thought.

The last time I saw Jean was November 7. We ran into each other at the lab, Sonora Quest. While there, she identified a third former Sunquester and wanted to make sure we acknowledged each other. That was another thing that never failed to impress me, Jean’s intrepid social abilities!

I will miss Jean’s presence in this world. But I also smile because I choose to believe she now knows the answers to the big questions.

Jodie Thach and Terry Westfall, Burrton, Kansas

Jean came into our lives when Jodie was in graduate school at the University of Arizona.  Jodie was Jean’s birth coach when Todd was born.  Jean and David followed us everywhere.  Good friends do that.  When we moved to Montana, they came for a visit.  When we moved to New Mexico, they came for a visit.  The last phone conversation Jodie had with Jean was about the price of plane tickets from Phoenix to Wichita.  We are going to miss our annual holiday missive from Jean. We grieve for Dave, Todd, and Ryan.
Summer 1984, Troy, Montana

Summer 1984, Troy, Montana

4 Responses to In Memoriam, Jean Phillips, 1953-2014

  1. Lori says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. She sounds like an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime friend. She seems to have embraced the motto “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh l’zeh” – “All Jews are responsible for one another.” But don’t think you could vanish so easily and no one would notice. While Jean is irreplaceable, other people love you too.

  2. Leo says:

    Such a loss Jean passed. Won’t we all would like to have a friend like that. Won’t we all like to have a heart like Jean’s.
    Condolences to Dave, and the family.

  3. Jill Leibman says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of such a good friend. The blog has served as a catalyst for many things, reuniting family members, creating a place to recall and remember lost family members and bringing together people who become like family. Jean sounds like a wonderful person and a great friend. That kind of loss is immeasurable. My sincere condolences to all.

  4. Melf says:

    what an amazing and beautiful person. What a lovely tribute. Jean sounds like a friend most every one of us would want in our lives. I know I would.

    I am so sorry for her family, and yes, that means you too. Jean considered you family, so she knows you feel her loss too.

    When we find that special friend who somehow permeates our lives in every manner, it is all the more painful when they leave. I am so sorry Edie.

    Todd, Ryan and Dave, I am so very sorry for your loss. I cannot even imagine how one accepts such a sudden loss. My heart is with you.

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