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Joanna Phyllis Manning Otterman


Monday, February 12, 2018

West Newbury, Vt. — Joanna “Phyllis” Phyllis Manning Ellis Otterman, beloved wife, sister, mother, aunt, friend, and even stranger, died peacefully on Friday, Feb. 9th surrounded by her family. She had been battling Progressive Supranuclear Palsy for more than three years, and it is a blessing that she is no longer suffering.

Phyllis was born in Montpelier on March 10, 1933  to Joanna and Philip Manning. Phyllis and sister Maureen lived in various towns around Vermont for their childhood and  adolescence. Phyllis graduated first in her class from Bakersfield High School in 1950 and headed off to Skidmore College, where she graduated in 1954 with a degree in Physical Education. Luckily, George “Win” Winston Ellis had been giving her rides back to school in his yellow convertible. They were married in December, 1954. Together, Phyllis and Win had four children: Joanna “Jody”, Barbara, Timothy and Stephen. She was an active and engaged mother, and everyone knew that she cared and would show up for you when you needed her most.

Phyllis and Win moved to Liverpool, N.Y., after graduation, and then moved to Burnt Hills, N.Y., where she was a kindergarten and first-grade teacher at BH-BL. Here-- and everywhere, really-- Phyllis made her mark. She was very involved in numerous church and community activities, and she skied with her family almost every weekend at Hickory Hill.

Phyllis and Win retired to West Newbury in 1996, a town she had been visiting since childhood. She became embedded in the community, especially at the West Newbury Congregational Church.  

After Win died in 2007, she remained in her home with the support of her family. Phyllis found love a second time around with Harvey “Bud” Otterman, a former lawyer and Vermont legislator. 

Phyllis could make anything, from pickled beets to her daughter’s wedding dress. She was independent, irreverent, generous, and kind, with a loud, crinkled laugh and dancing eyes. She loved to talk and talk and talk, and she did so with her large circle of friends. This included her best friend Betsy Kincaid. Phyllis wrote at least ten postcards a day to those who needed them, and anybody on the receiving end felt her love envelop them. She mowed her lawn until age 80, had a lead foot, and sent her grandchildren cookies in the mail.

The Ellis family is beyond grateful for the care that she received from the time of her diagnosis to the time of her death. Cindy, Destiny, and Holly were thoughtful and intuitive caretakers with huge hearts. We would like to especially thank Phyllis’s  rooommate and confidant, Debbe Romero, for her humor and amazing ability to guess just what Phyllis needed when she needed it. These women will always be an honorary part of our family.

Phyllis is survived by her four children Joanna “Jodi” Ellis; Barbara Ellis (husband Jeff Hill), Timothy Manning Ellis (wife Becky Graber), Stephen Ellis (wife Lisa); her sister, Maureen Manning Hall (husband Leland “Pete” Hall) ; sister-in-law Donna Rigby (husband George Rigby); cousin Betty Allebach; her grandchildren: Caitlin Harmon, Sarah Ellis, Tyler Ellis, Emily (and Joshua) Meneses, Jacob Ellis, Jackson Hill, Riley Ellis, and Derek Hill, and many nieces, nephews and more beloved friends and family.

A service celebrating Phyllis’s life will be on Saturday, Feb. 17th, at 12 noon, in the West Newbury Congregational Church, 207 Tyler Farm Road, with Rev. Cynthia Batten officiating.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made CurePSP (www.psp.org) or the West Newbury Congregational Church (207 Tyler Farm Road, West Newbury, Vt. 05085).