Phyllis Jane Ogden passed away on Tuesday, September 29. She was born on January 17, 1927, in Miami, Oklahoma and spent her early childhood growing up on a farm with her parents Earl and Sylvia Perry. Her grandfather, father, aunt and uncle were deeded the farm as citizens of the Cherokee Nation.
Phyllis had a love for reading, adventure, music, quilting, collecting stamps, playing bridge, education, working in her yard, and contributing to social justice through tireless commitment and involvement. She found the perfect match to share these lifelong pursuits with in David Ogden, her husband of 59 years. They met while attending Park College, where she earned a degree in music.
After graduating from Park College, they moved to Berkeley, California, where David earned his master’s degree in public administration. Phyllis, always wanting to be an informed and active participant in discussions, soon joined the League of Women Voters. She worked at every level, including serving on the State Board, and was an active member for 69 years. They eventually settled in Visalia where she was known for holding an annual spring gathering when their dogwood tree was in bloom. They loved to entertain and were known for their Indian dinners. They shared a love of the mountains and went on many hiking, canoeing and horse pack adventures in the United States and Canada. They took their first extended stock trip into the Sierra Nevada mountains when their youngest daughter was just six years old. Over the years their adventures became legendary among friends and family. Phyllis’ last trip into the mountains, where she hiked into May Lake in Yosemite, was when she was in her 80’s.
Phyllis was a violinist with the Tulare County (now Sequoia) Symphony for 30 years in addition to serving on the Symphony Board as guild president and board member at various times. At a concert on her 90th birthday, with her family in attendance, the director shared that it was her birthday and the orchestra and audience joined in singing her happy birthday. She and David became lifelong members of bridge and book clubs after moving to Visalia, and were involved in many local service groups. She was a voracious reader and wordsmith. She completed the crossword puzzle in the newspaper every day and when she could not solve a current cultural clue and was offered help from Google she would always decline as “that would be cheating.” Over these last months she received a steady stream of books from Amazon to keep her going while the local libraries were closed. She was also a fierce and loyal Jeopardy player at home and was often encouraged to apply to become a contestant.
Phyllis also earned her teaching credential from Fresno State University and taught for VUSD for 15 years, first as a 6th grade teacher at Mt. View and then as an English teacher at Green Acres Jr. High School. She always made a point of getting to know her students, to help them reach their full potential, and over the years some would return to visit her at the school. She was a life-long learner and teacher to so many, beginning as a Girl Scout leader in the 1950’s. She remained connected with, and continued to support, the GSA.
She and David were avid travelers, and toured more than 60 countries including every continent except Antarctica. They traveled to India three times. David had grown up in Northern India where his parents were Presbyterian Missionaries. Her last visit to India, also when she was in her 80’s, was with a group of friends who had asked her to join them, knowing that she would help create a memorable experience for them all.
One of Phyllis’ endearing qualities was her unique way of tying up all of her varied experiences into entertaining and often times humorous stories. Her memory was sharp as a tack and she had an uncanny way of pulling information together that captivated an audience. She also had a great gift for striking up conversations with people in various situations which often times led to life-long friendships.
Phyllis is survived by her three daughters; Gail Ogden, Jann Shiels (husband Patrick) and Pam Cwiklo; four grandchildren, Wesley Cwiklo, Lauren Cwiklo McMillan and Elsa and Perry Shiels; and great granddaughter, Harlee Ann.
Messages to the family can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org or 138 Camino La Madera, Camarillo, CA 93010
The family will hold a celebration of life at a future date. In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the donor’s favorite charity.