Phyllis Durlam, 1927- 2016

Services were held Friday, Dec. 23, at First United Methodist Church in Jefferson for Phyllis Durlam, 89, of Jefferson.

Words of comfort were offered by the Rev Julie Poulsen, pastor of the church. Music was provided by Zack and Eryn Durlam. Honorary bearers were Phyl’s grandchildren Zack Durlam, Tate Durlam, Matt Gerken, Melissa Janssen, Emily Helming, Mandy Stoner, Grace Even, Sara Harmsen, Jessica Woodley, Alex Durlam and Nicole Sage.

Interment will be at the Jefferson Municipal Cemetery at a later date.

Phyllis Ann Smith Durlam, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend passed from this life on December 15, 2016. 

Phyllis was born in Jefferson, IA, on Dec. 5, 1927 to her loving parents Frank and Rhea Smith. She had one brother, Jack.  When Phyllis was very young her father was killed in an auto accident. Her mother carried on and gave Phyl and Jack a wonderful childhood. Phyllis attended school in Jefferson where she graduated in 1945.  She then attended the University of Iowa for one year and she became a lifelong fan of Hawkeye sports.

Phyl met Wendell Durlam at the local swimming pool where he was a lifeguard and soon they became sweethearts. She was still in school when he was called away to serve in the Army during World War Two.  She faithfully wrote to him twice a week for more than three years while he was overseas.  When Wendell returned from the war in December of 1945, the two were engaged and then married on June 30, 1946. After moving to Ames for a year while Wendell attended Iowa State University, they returned to Jefferson to build their full and happy life together.  Their love and devotion for each other has provided a beautiful example for their family.

Phyllis and Wendell were blessed with four children; Chris, Nancy, Jeff, and Brian.  Later they multiplied their blessings with 11 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.  Phyllis had a wonderful talent for making each of her many family members feel treasured.

Phyllis was a very social and active person. She loved entertaining her family and her many friends.  She could visit with anyone and make instant friendships. She had an incredible memory of birthdays. Accompanied by Wendell on his harmonica, Phyllis would call and sing to each of her family members and many friends on their special days.

Phyl was known for her kindness and her beauty and style.  She even carried her lipstick in her sack lunch when she walked from Scranton to Jefferson with her young granddaughters. She enjoyed creating hundreds of handmade gifts for her family, including many baby blankets and sweaters and more than 50 beautiful knitted Christmas stockings! 

She also liked music, dancing, biking, fishing, golfing, shopping, mushroom hunting, playing bridge with friends, cribbage games with her family, and attending countless activities of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Phyllis and Wendell loved to spend a month near the ocean in California in the winter. She had a deep love for her family and was so proud of each of them. She just loved displaying photos of her great-grandchildren on a purse she carried (or sometimes made Wendell carry for her).

Those left to remember her love and devotion include Wendell, her husband for more than 70 years; sons Chris and his wife Janet of Jefferson; Jeff and his wife Sue of Jefferson; Brian and his wife Jodi of Cambridge; and daughter Nancy and her husband John of Jefferson. Also surviving Phyllis are her grandchildren Grace Even and her husband Andrew, Zack Durlam and his wife Eryn, Matthew Gerken and his fiancé Laura, Tate Durlam and his wife Chas, Melissa Janssen and her husband Matt, Emily Helming and her husband Ryan, Mandy Stoner and her husband Tanner, Sara Harmsen and her husband Daniel, Jessica Woodley and her husband Dan, Alex Durlam and his wife Nikki, and Nicole Sage and her husband Jon.  Survivors also include her great-grandchildren Jeremiah Even; Noah and Micah Durlam; Jill, Addy, and Kylie Janssen; Ava, Trevin, and Harper Helming; Tegan, Mallie, and Tage Stoner; Isaac, Simeon, and Chloe Harmsen; Jonas, Matt, and Sam Woodley; Hayden Durlam; and Brinn, Claire, and Nora Sage.  Sisters-in-law Lois Veach, Trudy Goettsch, and Mary Lynch and brother-in-law Mike Durlam and his wife Jo also survive Phyllis as well as her nieces, nephews, and many friends.

Phyllis was preceded in death by her parents Frank and Rhea Smith, her brother Jack Smith, her great- granddaughter Joanna Grace Woodley, several brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  All were very dear to her.    

Services were arranged by Slininger-Schroeder Funeral Home, Jefferson.


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