A Mass of Christian Burial was held Friday, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Little Falls, with Father Nick Landsberger officiating.
Mary Lorena Sylvester was born May 18, 1921, in Little Falls, to the late Charles A. and Elizabeth “Bess” (Tomelty) Sylvester. She was a lifelong resident of Little Falls, except during her college years when she attended the College of St. Catherine and the University of Minnesota. On Sept. 4, 1941, Mary was united in marriage to Robert J. Phillips, lawyer and Little Falls city attorney who practiced law until shortly before his death in 1994. The couple resided in Little Falls, where together they raised seven children. Mary was a mother and grandmother extraordinaire, community historian and leader, gifted writer and journalist, mentor, teacher and friend to generations of people whose lives she touched. Mary was deeply committed to Little Falls — its history, its schools, its people, its business. As she raised her children, she volunteered tirelessly in her community and served in numerous leadership roles: Morrison County United Way, the Morrison County Historical Society, Camp Fire Girls, Cub Scouts, St. Mary’s Parent Teacher Association, Meals on Wheels, Great River Arts Association, Heartland Symphony, St. Gabriel’s Hospital Auxiliary, American Cancer Society, the Leukemia Society, Linden Hill Conference Center, Pine Grove Zoo and Hospice. She was an active member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church. In 2000, Mary was honored with the Little Falls Exchange Club’s Book of Golden Deeds Award for her lifetime of community service. In her mid-50s, when Mary’s youngest child entered grade school, Mary embarked on her professional life. She returned to school at the College of St. Benedict and pursued journalism. She became a newspaper reporter and columnist for the Little Falls Daily Transcript and St. Cloud Times for the next 23 years. Mary’s gift was her ability to write about ordinary people and everyday life. Her news stories and columns captured the dignity, humanity and wisdom of others’ lives.
Left to cherish her memory are her children: Mary E. “Betsy” Wetzel of Little Falls, Diane G. Rasmussen of Cambridge, Maureen A. Phillips and husband, John (Jay) Horan of St. Paul, Kathleen (Kate) Phillips and husband, Noel Ashcroft of Sauk Rapids, Dr. Charles Phillips and wife, Kristi of Cambridge, and daughter-in-law, Karen Phillips of Grosse Pointe, Mich.; grandchildren, Anne Mills, Shawn Wetzel, Christina Halleen, Philip Rasmussen, Ashley Horan, Lex Horan, Anthony Marshik, Allison Ashcroft, Jack Ashcroft, Alyson Phillips, Robbie Phillips and Steven Phillips; and great-grandchildren, Michael Castle, Tyler Wetzel, Abby Wetzel, Chelsea Wetzel, Lukas Wetzel, Ian Halleen and Max Halleen.
She was preceded in death by her father, Charles Sylvester (1958); her mother, Bess Sylvester (1980); husband, Robert J. Phillips (1994); sons, James Charles Phillips (1954) and Robert J. Phillips Jr. (1994); daughter-in-law, Linda D. Phillips (1992); and brother, Charles Sylvester Jr. (1959).
Emblom-Brenny Funeral Home