Phyllis Irene Roell Stewart
November 1, 1928 to January 3, 2019
Phyllis Irene Roell was born in Nome, Alaska, November 1, 1928 when Alaska was a US Territory and Nome was becoming a post “gold rush” town. She arrived three years to the day after her big sister and lifelong best friend Mary Roell Honsberger. Growing up in Nome was quite an experience in the 20’s and 30’s. Nome was a virtual company town of the Fairbanks Exploration Company, a tiny place where everyone knew each other, and roaming the town, beach and countryside was a daily adventure. Daughter of Richard W. Roell, a career employee of the FE Company, and Grace Beariault Roell, Phyllis’s childhood was a true Alaskan adventure. Born before scheduled air service, the residents of Nome received all of their supplies, in the summer and fall via steamship and barge from Seattle, when the Bering Sea was not frozen for the winter. Canned and durable foods – like Spam and sardines – were staples that became favorites for life, and she always loved any fresh fruit!
During the WWII years the family moved to Seattle, and Phyllis got to know her large Seattle area family including German speaking grandparents in Bellingham, aunts, uncles, cousins and “family” from the Nomeites who called Seattle home. During the war she attended Lincoln High School for part of her high school, but graduated from Nome HS in 1947, with a graduating class of eight. She attended all-girls Stevens College in Columbia, Missouri where she experienced life in the south, learning to canoe and play tennis before returning to Nome with an Associate of Arts degree in 1949.
Her early adult years were spent in Nome where she worked for Wien Airlines. While at Wien’s she met many lifelong friends, including Jim “Fearless” Freericks whom she married on November 15, 1952. They moved to the “Big City” of Fairbanks (population 6000) in 1953, followed by many friends and fellow Wien folks who became her extended family while she raised kids and became a great cook and homemaker. Daughter Chris arrived in August 1953, daughter Lorry in June 1955, and son Charley in April 1958.
In 1974 she returned to the workforce helping to run the Broiler, a Fairbanks lunch and dinner landmark, that she and Jim had purchased with partner George Richard, husband of her best friend LaVerne (Reilly) Richard. Soon after, she joined lifelong friend Lani (Andon) Howard at Odom Company. She and her second husband Gordie Stewart married in 1981 and had many years of adventure with Stewart Fish Company, which involved a lot of fun fishing trips to Valdez before Gordie passed in 1997. She remained Phyllis Stewart for the rest of her life but returned to her old neighborhood and a house her son designed and built. There she was able to have her annual Christmas party and live her generous open-door policy in style.
Phyllis was an endless arts and crafts fanatic, always knitting, sewing, upholstering furniture, and making things. Many family photos show all three kids in handmade outfits and various examples of her handiworks in the background. She was active in the Fairbanks Garden Club well into her 80s, loved her flowers, gardened and collected wind chimes to sing outside all year long.
In 1979 Phyllis entered her favorite career as Grandma “Phee Phee” with the arrival of her first grandchild and in 2014. After seven grand kids, she graduated to Grandma “Great”. Ultimately seven great grandkids arrived guarantying that her house was always full and fun.
On January 3, 2019 at 90 years, she went as she wanted - in her sleep, at home, accompanied by her loved ones. We will miss her dearly but have a lifetime of fun and funny memories to help us smile as the sadness fades.
The family would like to acknowledge and thank the great homecare team who took wonderful care of Phyllis these past years. The team was led by daughter Chris Stepovich who was always there, daughter Lorry Huebner who flew in from Oregon to provide relief for her sister several days each month, ResCare who provided a team of skilled and loving caregivers, and Hospice of the Tanana Valley for helping Phyllis maintain her sense of humor and dignity.
Phyllis is survived by her sister “Aunt Mary” Honsberger; daughters Chris Stepovich (Mike); Lorry Freericks Huebner (Rick): son Charley Freericks (Cathy); grandchildren Matija Stepovich Meenaghan (Kevin); Lauren Stepovich Hoffman (Anthony); Leah Stepovich; Toby Huebner Germany (Michael); Michael Anthony Stepovich; Carter Freericks; Alexandra Freericks; great grandchildren Annaleigh Germany; Marlowe Stepovich; Mack Hoffman; Patrick Meenaghan; Emmett Hoffman; Rose Meenaghan; and Lexington Germany.
Following Phyllis’s wishes, a casual celebration of life will be held at her home at 5:00pm on February 1, 2019.