We celebrate the life of, and love for Phyllis Therese Odermann who passed away at St. Luke’s Nursing Home on November 8, 2020. On January 21, 1932, in Elbowoods, ND, Phyllis was born the fifth of eight children to Henry and Regina (Landwehr) Odermann. Phyllis shared many stories of the delight, hard work, determination, sacrifice and community responsibility of growing up on a farm in rural North Dakota, and those experiences shaped the future years of Phyllis’ life.
After graduating from high school, Phyllis received a teaching certificate from Dickinson Teaching College, and taught two years in rural ND schools before entering Holy Cross Convent in Merrill, Wisconsin and received her elementary education degree. Phyllis taught and mentored her beloved students during her years as a nun in Milwaukee, WI, and after leaving the religious order, continued to teach at the inner city, Harambee School, making a pittance in salary, but carrying a treasure trove of love for the adoring and loving black children in her classrooms. Phyllis eventually finished her teaching career in South Heart, ND, and in all, provided a total of 47 years dedicated to her passion of educating children. Her delight, hard work, determination, sacrifice and community contributions as a teacher provided many young minds and hearts with tools they’ve carried throughout their lives as they knew at young ages how much she cared for and treasured each child. After retiring from teaching, Phyllis moved to Helena, MT, and then returned to live at Park Avenue Villa, and eventually, at St. Luke’s.
Phyllis has left behind multitudes of memorable gifts with her loving touch for family and friends via her deep love and enjoyment for sewing clothing and creating stuffed animals, making cards, braided rugs, patchwork quilts and pillows, and. her ability to literally spend pennies on the dollar for her materials. Phyllis had a dry sense of humor, and although she could come across as quite serious sometimes, those who knew her well were occasionally treated to a glimpse of the imp and sly fox she hid well on the rare occasions when she may have “tipped” one too many. She loved to play games and put puzzles together, and be surrounded by family. Her devotion to equality and social justice, especially for people of color, were tantamount in her adult years, and she generously contributed to causes that assisted those who were marginalized. Phyllis’ faith and her positive outlook on life carried her through many obstacles, and almost always became a lesson she shared with those she loved.
Phyllis is survived by her sister, Joan Odermann in Dickinson, her sister and brother-in-law, Cele and Al Volesky, in Helena, MT, numerous nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, and great-great nieces and nephews who live in the states and around the globe. She was preceded in death by her parents, Henry and Regina Odermann; sisters and brothers-in-law, Doris and Willie Stevenson, and Teresa and Tommy Weinand; brothers, Father John Odermann and Lloyd Odermann, and brother and sister-in-law, Harold and Helen Odermann.
Phyllis’ family would like to extend their significant appreciation to all of those who have cared so diligently and lovingly for her during her years at Park Avenue Villa and St. Luke’s, and to all of her friends and teaching colleagues who have touched her life through kindness, caring and support. Undoubtedly, we will all be grateful for the memories of Phyllis, and the generous heart and spirit she embodied.