Born to Leroy and Ruth Munger in 1931, Phyllis Walker was known to all for her love of Jesus.
While still a child she was known by her family to be relatively uninterested in household chores but having great enthusiasm for anything having to do with the Bible or church, a trait she carried with her to adulthood.
Once when she was being punished for having neglected her chores, her father told her she wasn’t allowed to go to Wednesday evening Bible study. Later, when the family piled into the car to go, he spied her in the backseat and said, “Young lady, I told you that you weren’t going tonight. The Bible says that children are to obey their parents.” She replied, “It says, ‘Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.’ Not going to church isn’t in the Lord.” He then grumpily backed out of the driveway having no more to say.
After graduating from East High in Des Moines, Iowa, she attended Capitol City Commercial College, worked for the law firm of Hextel, Mitchell and Beving, and then attended Indiana University School of Business (she never told friends and family that she made the dean’s list every semester, this was discovered in her personal papers), and was the only woman in the business machines class that used the aboriginal IBM inventory computer.
During this time she attended the Indiana Avenue Church of Christ and met her husband, Robert Walker. They set up housekeeping in Indianapolis, and she worked for Dr. Johnston in the IU School of Dentistry while Robert sold encyclopedias and cookwares door-to-door.
After he became certified in electroencephalography, she happily stayed home to care for their two sons (they were eventually to have three: Drs. Phillip Walker, Gregory Walker and John Walker). However, shortly after this, Robert was convinced by his boss, university pediatric neurologist Dr. Demeyer, to go to medical school.
After a jag of crying with her babies in her arms, she went back to work and the boys went to nursery school. Med school was stressful for all. That year the state legislature required the medical school to double the enrollment, the school responded by flunking out half of the freshman class. Robert made the cut.
At that time they were members of the Speedway Church of Christ, whose leadership did not think overseas mission work was appropriate and which work Robert and Phyllis were becoming deeply interested in. Nearly overcome with tears at her desk trying to get her work done, Phyllis, torn over whether to go on or to stay in that congregation, heard a voice telling her to read Isaiah 54:10, “Though the mountains depart, and the hills be removed, my steadfast love will not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed.”
They moved on to Traders Point Christian Church and the Central Africa Mission, doing medical mission work in Rhodesia, Africa, which defined them as a family.
After returning, they settled in Ellettsville; and Robert started the Bloomington Hospital Emergency Department, while Phyllis continued to raise her sons and participated in the Women’s Republican Club (among her many virtues, she never voted for any Democrat, ever), Local Council of Women (she turned down a particular leadership position because she didn’t think it appropriate for doctors or their wives to be on the hospital board), Owen-Monroe Medical Society Auxiliary (eventually president of the state association), treasurer of the Central Africa Mission (and often the organization presence at the national missionary convention), Richland Bean-Blossom school board (there would be no pool if not for her), Eagle Forum, Stop ERA and many pro-life causes.
She was of inestimable value to any group she joined because she could take down every word said in shorthand and type it out thunderously on a manual typewriter as easily as she did hymns on a piano or organ (she had only seven music lessons as a child and could play almost anything she heard by ear).
She could see through a cynical machination like Superman using X-ray vision, and many are those who lived to regret, whether they knew it or not, ignoring her warnings. She also taught Sunday school and helped coordinate many a vacation Bible school and spoke at many gatherings of many kinds. She left behind hundreds of books of Christian music after having been a member of a women’s trio and helping to organize innumerable cantatas and choir performances.
Her Bibles are worn with use and marked and underlined so heavily you can barely see the text.
In her last years, she and Robert joined the Orthodox Church, seeing in it the natural outcome of the many attempts to achieve an originalist restoration of primitive Christian worship.
In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus goes to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus (whom he raised from the dead); and during the early part of the visit Martha did all of the meal preparation while Mary sat at His feet. When Martha complained about this, Jesus mildly rebuked her saying that Mary had chosen the better part.
Yes, Phyllis Walker was not the best housekeeper, but she chose the best part. Anyone wanting to make a donation in honor of Phyllis is asked to give their heart to Jesus.
Funeral services will be conducted at 11 a.m. Saturday at Allen Funeral Home, 4155 S. Old State Road 37, Bloomington, with the Rev. Tom Ellsworth and the Rev. Father Peter Jon Gillquist officiating. Family will receive friends from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at the funeral home. Burial will be at All Saints Orthodox Cemetery in Bloomington.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.allenfuneralhome.org.