Phyllis Netherland


Phyllis Netherland’s daughter described her as a “a go-getter” who never sat down. She was somebody who was always seeking new experiences. She loved art, travel, her grandchildren, and was accepting of people from all walks of life.

Of the seeming swarm of friends in Gettysburg, almost everybody commented on her smile and her laugh.

Phyllis was 75 when she died peacefully on April 29 from pulmonary fibrosis, a serious lung disease.

She was born on Feb. 21, 1944, in Beaver, Pa., and graduated from Beaver Area Senior High School and radiology technologist training at Rochester Hospital. She married Christy Boyd Netherland in October of 1963. He died in 2000. Her son John Frederick Netherland also preceded her in death in 2016.

For most of her adult life she was a radiology technologist and then decided to further her career and pursue additional training to become an MRI technologist.

Daughter Elizabeth Donavan, who lives in Maryland, said Phyllis moved to Gettysburg in 2004.

Phyllis’ friend John Mulligan always admired her spiritual side.

“I knew Phyllis for several years since her early arrival in Gettysburg,” Mulligan wrote in an email. “I got to know her better through her artistic jewelry creations when she came to work at Gallery 30. When she was available on Sunday evenings, I had the benefit of her participation at Buddhist insight meditation…Phyllis had an endearing spirit; with all of us, she shared the gift of her innermost soul. Her happiness, her kind and loving spirit was a gift of great wealth she shared with us all. By her presence in my life, her spirit was a gift to me so that I could find my way to wholeness.”

Daughter Elizabeth Donovan said her mother “…was fiercely loyal, incredibly inclusive. There wasn’t anybody that wasn’t acceptable to talk to or associate with.”

She said both her parents “were both inclusive and so hard working it was crazy.”

“I’m just 53, but I’m still absorbing stuff she was teaching. Beauty was very important to her, the surrounding beauty. She loved seeing new things and loved making friends wherever she went. She was special, really special,” she said.

Gettysburg resident Ann Gilbert described another aspect of Phyllis’ personality.

“I remember Phyllis coming to dinner at my house with her oxygen in hand. I always had candles burning on the dinner table. However, I forgot that wasn’t a good idea with the oxygen. The next time she came to dinner she brought me a present—six battery operated tea candles. I use them all the time and think of her every time. She was a beautiful, talented, and generous friend who I miss so much.”

Lynda Taylor wrote that after all these months, she still reacts with a jolt when she checks for texts from her good friend.

“…yet another stock for me to research, an idea to follow up on or an article that requires a comment tells you something about her always inquiring mind and curiosity...even during her very long and painful hospital and rehab stays,” she wrote.

Taylor said she didn’t think Phyllis had any idea how beautiful she was.

“Gorgeous blonde hair, luminous skin, eyes the color of deep blue pools of water dancing with laughter only added to her beauty,” Taylor wrote. “She was the fashion icon of Adams County, carefully applied makeup, beautifully dressed, tastefully accessorized, every color looked smashing on her.

“She was a giver,” Taylor said. “To her friends, family and community always sharing her love for us and donating time and energy to many community-based programs and festivals.”

Taylor also gave a nod to Phyllis’ artistic endeavors, not only in creating custom jewelry, but in learning how to create a market for it.

“It took a while, but she persevered and made it happen,” she said.

Marcia A. Kile said the best remark she could make about her friend was an old poem, author unknown, that she had cherished for years:

“Your Mother is always with you. She is the whisper

of the leaves as you walk down the street. She’s

the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers

you pick, the fragrance of life itself. She’s the cool

hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well.

She’s your breath in the air on a cold winter’s day.

She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep,

the colors of a rainbow, she is Christmas morning.

Your Mother lives inside your laughter. She’s the

place you came from, your first home, and she’s

the map you follow with every step you take.

She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first

enemy, but nothing on earth can separate you

not time, not space…not even death.”

“I am happy to have been a friend and a participant in her life for a few years,” Kile concluded.

“When the name of my friend Phyllis Netherland flashes across my mental screen, here’s what comes with it: A big smile on a super-pretty face and a look that says, “ How wonderful to see you—nothing could make me happier,” said yet another of Phyllis’ chums, Susan Bryant. “This is the picture I saw way back in Phyllis’s Gallery 30 days, when the sight of that welcoming face helped draw us into the gallery. I saw it when I helped edit a project she was working on, and I saw it when Phyllis’s health began to fade, but she made light of it, and we had lunch together after her physical therapy session. The last time I saw Phyllis, she was frail and thin and failing—but as pretty and gallant as ever. When she saw us, the friends who had come to surprise her, her face lit up, and she gave that beautiful, warm, gallant smile: ‘How wonderful to see you,’” she was telling us. “Nothing could make me happier!”

“Thanks, Phyllis, for the warmth, the sense of fun, and the gallantry that went with that smile,” Bryant wrote.

Brenda McCabe remembered a funny story about how Phyllis wound up needing a new stove.

“She turned on her oven without removing her plastic ware she had stored there,” McCabe said. “My husband was doing some handyman work at her house at the time and he said the smell was incredibly bad. Poor Phyllis had to buy a new stove, but she was able to laugh about it later.”

Gettysburg businesswoman Lois Starkey said Phyllis was a role model for her.

“She made it easy to be authentic and to say what needs to be said, knowing it was good for our relationship and for our souls,” Starkey said.

“Over the years, as our friendship grew, so did my admiration, respect and love for Phyllis grow. For this, I am eternally grateful. Her friendship taught me the value and importance of staying connected to my friends.”

Starkey said Phyllis’ curiosity and desire for knowledge was truly inspiring.

“Our conversations were rich with talk of art, books, culture, politics, and family,” she said. “Perhaps Phyllis’ suffering through the deaths of her husband and son, and her own debilitating illnesses was one of the largest lessons from our friendship and out times together. It was through all this that she continued to keep her optimism and love for life, her family and her friends…Phyllis will remain in my heart forever.”

Joan Chick also commented on Phyllis’ determination to give until there was no more to be given.

“Phyllis was the most positive person, under the most challenging of circumstances I have known,” said Chick. “She was relentless in the pursuit of Volunteer work when it certainly was not easy for her. She served as an example to those of us who saw in her an example of grace under pressure.”

Daughter Elizabeth Donovan said in many ways the butterfly pin she made as the leader of her jewelry collection may have been her crowning achievement.

She was working in her garden a few years after my dad died. A mourning cloak butterfly landed on her shoulder and just stayed there. Then she said to it: “I love you, hun, and goodbye.” The butterfly then winged its way out of the garden.”

The butterfly pin, made at the Wendell August Forge in western Pennsylvania, sold them for some years.

The family has requested that memorial donations may be made to: The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, 230 E. Ohio St., Suite 500, Chicago IL 60611. Web tribute,

“Absent Friends” is published in the Gettysburg Times on Thursdays. It tells the stories of people who go through their lives working and playing and affecting the lives of others with only a few ever knowing their names. Subjects are chosen mostly at random but suggestions may be emailed to

T.W. Burger began is journalism career at the Gettysburg Times in 1985. He worked for several other newspapers in the area during the 1990s and 2000s before returning to the Times as a correspondent in 2013.

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