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Phyllis Rose McAward Kelleher

Mar 3, 2021

Phyllis Rose Ward was born February 22, 1932 in Bronx, NY, and grew up in Flushing, Queens. Born with a then-inoperable heart defect, Phyllis was not expected to live past her sixth birthday, was not expected to have a perfect attendance record through eight years of Saint Kevin’s Catholic Elementary school, and was not expected to graduate from Bayside High School in 1950. She was awarded a Bachelor’s degree from Queens College, and married Bayside High classmate Jeremiah Patrick McAward in 1954.

Because of her heart defect, Phyllis was warned against having children. While having a reputation as a good listener, Phyllis chose not to listen to the doctors, and had children anyway: Jeremiah Patrick McAward Jr., Mary Jeanne McAward, and James Gerard McAward. She and her young family relocated to Huntington, NY in 1960, when moving to the suburbs was what brave pioneers did. Phyllis learned to drive a car at the age of 30, and for the next 58 years was reticent about making left turns against traffic; thus the lives of her young children were defined by all the places which one could go by making only right turns.

Many years later, Phyllis and her second husband Charles Kelleher became world travelers, driven by curiosity to visit many foreign lands, including multiple trips to Europe and a very long trip around the world. Phyllis and Charles relocated to Sanibel Island, Florida in 1988, and became enmeshed in the Island’s social fabric: swinging hammers for Habitat for Humanity, volunteering at a local nature preserve, and serving residents through an organization named Friends in Service Here, known by its acronym “FISH”.

Daughter Mary Jeanne passed in 2015, Charles passed in 2017, and in 2019 Phyllis decided to move North to be closer to her sons. Settling in Blue Point NY, she enjoyed being with her two grandchildren Harry and Annie, and living in a town which was much like her beloved Sanibel but for a lack of palm trees (and no lack of snow in the winter.)

Phyllis was up for any excursion – watching boats on the bay, lunch at the beach, and trips through old neighborhoods of her past. With an unusually acute memory, she was filled with stories of our family’s history: shown a picture from 1940, she could tell us who all the people were including the names of long-ago girlfriends and boyfriends, what was on the menu, and where they bought their dresses. Her memory was a gift to all, and we who survived her will keep her many stories alive. Despite tragedies in her life, including losing her beloved Mary Jeanne, Phyllis maintained a positive, Jesus-centered attitude and a heart filled with love for her large extended family, her many friends, and everyone she met.

Phyllis left us on February 8th after a brief illness, and undoubtedly was greeted by all who passed before her: her parents Margaret and Richard Ward; her departed siblings Peggy, Sarah, Patsy, and Janet; her late husbands Jeremiah Patrick McAward and Charles Kelleher, and her daughter Mary Jeanne. She is survived by her sons Jeremiah McAward, James McAward (Kimberly), stepdaughter Nancy Kelleher Treuber (Bob), and grandchildren Harry James McAward, Anne Sarah McAward, Alex Treuber, and Olivia Treuber.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Our Lady of the Snow R.C. Church in Blue Point, on March 4th at 9:45am. A memorial celebration to be scheduled when the pandemic permits. In lieu of flowers, donations to FISH of Sanibel/Captiva would be appreciated: http://www.fishofsancap.org/donate