Phyllis Claire Deitz


Phyllis Claire Deitz died unexpectedly on Sunday afternoon, July 22. She took ill suddenly and passed within a day and a half. At her bedside were her daughter, Bonnie Sue Deitz of Edgartown, and three of her grandchildren, Jennifer Corr, William Deitz, and Jaclynn Deitz. Being a few days short of her 91st birthday, Phyllis had been requested a couple of years back to jot down some dates and important events in her life. The following is what we found …

“I was born September 2, 1921, in the little brown house on New York Ave. next to Nelson DeBettencourt’s gas station garage (which my father built). The house was moved from the woods. We lived there until the crash of 1929. Before that Dad had the Dreamland Garage. They did tours and taxi cab service. He started several businesses but he wasn’t a real business person and they all seemed to have trouble.

“I went to the Oak Bluffs School; was a girl scout, and played in the drum and bugle corp. I played the bugle. I also was in 4-H.

“After Dad sold the garage and house to Mr. Ambler Wormsley, we rented and lived in Annie Gonyon’s house that the Morrises live in on New York Ave. Dad started to build the brown house on Towanticut Ave. In our backyard was Uncle Walter’s house and the garden part was in the back of Uncle Teddie’s yard. Across the road was the town pound. It was a square area with split rail fencing.

“I don’t remember what year we moved into our new home. We used to walk up a hill and through the woods to go to school. We came home from lunch at noon. School got out at 3:15 pm. I worked at Ann and Burt’s Variety Store next to the Flying Horses.

“I graduated in Union Chapel in a class of ten in 1940. After that I worked in Studley’s Store that summer. Next, got a job under N.Y.A. “National Youth Administration” at the Town Hall in Oak Bluffs.

“That ‘s where the Principal, Mr. Charles Downs, asked me about the Waltham Training School for Attendant Nurses. I accepted. After graduating in 1942, I came back to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and worked there until September of 1946 – I got married to Kenneth W. Deitz, March 5, 1946, in Laconia, N.H.

“Ken started to build us a house on the lot next to his folks. We lived with my folks. Doreen was born June 22, 1947. We moved to Edgartown in 1949 to our unfinished house on July 4th weekend. Ken worked nights in the house to finish it (worked days in his shop). I stayed home and took care of our daughter and the house.” This is where she stopped.

So now, the rest of her story. Phyllis was born to Elsie Schwemmler Gilkes and Cooper Alleyne Gilkes. As you can tell from her words though she married Kenny Deitz and moved to Edgartown, she was always an Oak Bluffs girl at heart. Their marriage lasted for 51 years, until Ken’s death in 1997.

She was an excellent mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend to all whose lives she touched. Phyllis lost her daughter, Doreen, in 2010 to cancer but found a wonderful son-in-law in Doreen’s husband, Donald Clauson of Hatchville. Phyllis also leaves behind a grandson, Jeffrey G. Corr II, and two granddaughters, Faith A. Rizzuto and her husband, John, and Beth E. Cox and her husband, Michael. Each of Dory’s girls were blessed with four children. So Great-Grandma Phyllis was able to hold and love all of them over the years — Margaret, John-David, Catherine, and Luke Rizzuto and Leah, Stephen, Matthew and Timothy Cox.

Aunt Phyl, as her nieces and nephews recall, was always a steady presence over the years. They include Cooper A. Gilkes III and his wife, Lela, Robert E. Gilkes, and Marsha Brown, all of Edgartown, Michelle Burns of Oswego, N.Y., James Bowes and his wife, Ann, of N.H., and Susan Blogett. She lost two other nephews, Michael Brown and Thomas Bowes, a few years back. She is also survived by 13 other great nieces and nephews, some still living on the Vineyard and some off Island.

Though a homemaker, Phyllis was an active member of the community and participated over the years in the United Methodist Church, the Edgartown Women’s Club, as well as having been a long-standing member of Oriental Chapter No.73 Order of the Eastern Star. After Oriental Chapter consolidated with a Cape chapter, Masona Chapter No.134, Phyllis and daughter Bonnie were able to travel this spring to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Masona in Orleans.

Phyllis always took pride in her family and helped them and many community efforts over the years. Donations may be offered in her memory to an Island charity of one’s choice.

Visiting hours are Friday, July 27, from 6 to 8 pm at Chapman Cole & Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs. A graveside service will follow on Saturday, July 28, at 11 am in the West Side Cemetery in Edgartown. All attending are welcome to Bonnie’s home following the service for a potluck/barbeque at 7 Meetinghouse Hill, Edgartown. Feel free to bring a dish and celebrate Phyllis’s life.