Phyllis Lee Ward – Obituary

by Lynn McMillen
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Loving, nurturing, enthusiastic, compassionate – all seem inadequate to fully describe the life of Phyllis Lee Ward.
Phyllis died peacefully, surrounded her by family, on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012.
Love. Her greatest love and highest loyalty were to her family.
She is survived by her husband, Jim Ward, of Northport; son, Russ Neese (Shannon), of Smyrna, Ga.; daughter, Rachel Nilsen (Art), of Hoover, Ala.; son, Zachary Ward, of Tuscaloosa Ala.; brother, Bill Lee, of Marietta, Ga.; sister, Brenda Jones (Barry), of Rogersville, Ala.; brother, George (Mary Ann), of Florence, Ala.; mother-in-law, Kelda Ward, of Auburn, Ala.; sister-in-law, Leigh Nix, of Auburn, Ala.; brother-in-law, Larry Ward (Debra), of Dothan, Ala.; as well as many nieces and nephews. She was the beloved Nanu of Annalee and Callum Neese and Everett Nilsen.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Doris and J.D. Lee.
Nurture. Phyllis was a master teacher. She perfected the art of instilling an appreciation for good literature and the craft of teaching the writing process. Her classroom came to life with music, dance, art and architecture and extended beyond the classroom with camping trips and visits to Washington, D.C., and New York City. The lives of her students superseded the course content. She was often the first individual in her students’ lives to nurture a talent, spark an interest or believe in their worth. Her career began at Rogers High in Greenhill, Ala., and continued for 26 years with The Tuscaloosa City Schools as an elementary counselor and as an English teacher at Druid High School, Central High School and The American Studies Center.
Enthusiasm. Each aspect of her life was approached with exuberance: reading, gardening, volunteering, painting and traveling. Her retirement years were savored, with each day and each trip carefully planned. As a master gardener, she volunteered at the UA Arboretum and cultivated her lake yard. Thursdays were spent at the DCH Neonatal nursery, nurturing babies and their parents.
Tuesday nights were spent in painting class, carefully capturing scenes and portraits to preserve the places and people she treasured. Travel with family and friends to the beach, the mountains, the islands and Italy was the highlight of each year. Never without a book; no discussion was complete without the mention of a new author or new book to read.
Compassion. Meaningful relationships and memories were made with acquaintances, friends and family. Phyllis delighted in the diversity and individuality of those around her and she showed an immediate and genuine concern for others. Always uplifting, she was quick to tell a funny story or find a reason to laugh. Close and lasting friendships were carefully chosen and guarded. Her best friends, teaching colleagues, members of her book club, former students and her family will always remember and be grateful for her desire to love and nurture, her ability to understand and communicate, and her willingness not to judge.
For those who knew her, no words are necessary to capture her immeasurable impact on family, friends and students; for those who did not know her, no words are adequate.
A memorial service to celebrate the life of Phyllis Ward will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29, at North River Yacht Club.
The service will be at 11 a.m., conducted by the Rev. Fred L. Hammond of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Tuscaloosa County Public Library, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa or the charity of your choice .

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