Phyllis Miller Fetterolf, long time teacher in the Santa Maria area, passed away in her home on Dec. 1, 2019. She had told her daughter Shelley and live-in caregiver Janelle Bognuda that she was ok, thank you and that she loved us.
Phyllis was born at home, in Michigan City, IN. She loved playing in the woods with her brothers, Roland and Robert. She was in Girl Scouts (she loved singing songs) and 4-H (she loved to bake) and would ‘clear the floor' when dancing the polka. After high school she choose to go to Valparaiso University to become a teacher. She came home most weekends to baby-sit and make some money. As a teacher, she specialized in teaching children to read and taught in Michigan City, Indiana. When her father, Dr. Norman Miller, completed his Doctor of Chiropractor degree, he moved the family (her mother Naomi, brothers Roland and wife Sally and Robert and wife Lila) to California in 1958. In Santa Maria, Phyllis worked to help the family start the Miller Chiropractic business.
Ms. Miller taught 1st grade in Nipomo and tells the story of how the migrant students and their parents wanted to learn English, so she tutored them after school. At the end of the year, when the president of the school board came into her class, she was surprised. He was there to tell her that all of her students, English language learners and all, were reading at or above grade level. Yes, Phyllis said she could teach anyone to read and she did!
On December 20th, 1959 she married Russell Fetterolf, a fireman at Vanderburg Air Force Base. Phyllis was teaching at Cook St. School. Soon, a daughter Shelley was born, and then a daughter Sherry. Soon Phyllis was involved in Girl Scouts (starting a troop at Robert Bruce School for her niece Debbi (Miller) Adam) and involved in the PTA. She was a Sunday School teacher and the Sunday School Superintendent at Grace Lutheran Church. Phyllis loved playing the piano and singing with both the children in Sunday School and in school. She played at parties and everyone remembers singing Christmas carols at grandma's house.
Phyllis was loving, kind and helpful to everyone. Even after she was divorced, she invited Russell back into her home, so he could live in Santa Maria and she and her daughter could help take care of him until his death. She opened her home to many – there were numerous dinners and parties. She would let her daughters take the furniture out of the living room so they could have parties and play silly games and dance. Many a weekend there were pancakes and eggs at midnight and a few girlfriends sleeping over.
Reading and education were important to Phyllis her entire life. She was a well-known and popular substitute teacher. Her former students fondly remember that she would sing songs if they were well behaved and requested the “Umm pluck-a-plucka” and “Beaver Tooth” song. She always ordered scholastic books and her children and grandchildren had their own library at grandma's house. She was so proud when her daughters graduated from college and when her grand-children also completed their degrees.
Phyllis was a devoted mother. She was involved with girl scouts, 4-H, FFA, PTA, Sunday School, dance lessons, piano lessons, camping trips and traveling across country to visit family. Many friends remember her photo wall of all her daughters' activities.
Phyllis was always encouraging and committed to her family and friends and children. We will miss her wisdom, faith, silly songs and her smile.
Phyllis was preceded in death by her ex-husband Russell Fetterolf, her parents Norman and Naomi Miller, her sister-in-law Sally Miller, her son-in-law Barry Wilkinson, her niece Pam Miller and her nephew Chris Miller. She is survived by her daughters Shelley (Rick) Klein of Santa Maria and Sherry Wilkinson of Fayetteville Georgia; her grandchildren Brandy (Ryan) Peterson and daughter Evelyn of Georgia, Amy (Caleb) Crain of Santa Maria, Seth (Murphy) Wilkinson and daughter Reagen of Woodstock Georgia, Luke (Melissa) Wilkinson of New Jersey, brothers Roland Miller and Robert (Lila) Miller of Santa Maria and numerous nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.
A viewing is scheduled at Dudley Hoffman Mortuary from 12 -2 pm.on Thursday, December 5th followed by a memorial service in Phyllis's honor at Grace Lutheran Church at 423 E. Fesler, Santa Maria at 3 pm.. A reception will follow in the church fellowship hall
In lieu of flowers please contribute to Grace Lutheran Preschool or to the Friends of the Santa Maria Library. In her honor, please read with or to a young child.