Virginia Lee Phillips, 89, of Amarillo, died Wednesday, December 21, 2011.
Memorial services will be at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, December 23, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 1601 S. Georgia, Amarillo, with the Rev. Jo Roberts Mann officiating. Arrangements are by Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors, 2800 Paramount Blvd. in Amarillo.
Virginia was born on October 24, 1922 in Vernon, Texas. Memories of growing up and going to school in the Vernon area included moving in with her aunt and seven cousins following the death of her mother when she was quite young. It also was there that she grew to appreciate the vast new worlds reading could open for one with access to books. A kind judge, who was a friend of her father, allowed this curious young girl to borrow books from his extensive library. Consequently, she read many books about topics that were not common to everyday life in a rural area, and in doing so, developed an ongoing quest for knowledge that characterized her throughout a full life that made a difference in the world.
World War II was in full swing when Virginia met Elliott (Chope) Phillips in 1943. She was working at Pantex and he was enlisted in the Army Air Corp, stationed in Amarillo. After Chope was discharged, he purchased a ranch near Las Vegas, New Mexico, before marrying Virginia in 1947. Together, they purchased another ranch in the same area–their dream ranch. Virginia was very involved with every aspect of the ranching operation and of the home they built there. They retired from the ranch in 1993, moving to Amarillo so “Ginna” and Granddad could be nearer their children and grandchildren, but they maintained close friendships with former New Mexico ranching neighbors after they moved to Texas.
The state capitol in Santa Fe was close enough for Virginia to foster a special interest in New Mexico politics, and she was not bashful about letting state politicians know how she felt about various issues over the years. A contagious sense of humor, quick wit, and special twinkle in her eyes were accompanied by refreshing candor and honesty. She had a down-to-earth grace that few people possess.
Her natural intellect and strong desire to learn were taken to a new level when her father-in-law, Waite Phillips, offered to teach her to manage financial investments. Mr. Phillips was a contributing member of the family that founded Phillips Petroleum, and utilizing what he had taught her over the years, Virginia was instrumental in creating and maintaining the Waite and Genevieve Phillips Foundation with proceeds from the Phillips estate. The foundation has provided financial support for numerous non-profit entities in New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma, including Philmont Boy Scout Ranch near Cimarron, NM, and Philbrook Art Museum in Tulsa.
Prudent management and wise investment decisions have enabled the foundation to continue to thrive, and Virginia valued highly the positive impact that foundation funds have had on countless individual lives. She was the recipient of many awards and recognitions for her philanthropic activities and interests. Such interests led to her involvement with a number of non-profit boards and committees in addition to the Waite and Genevieve Phillips Foundation Board, including the New Mexico Museum of Natural History; the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch; the Philbrook Art Museum; the MD Anderson Cancer Center Visitors Board of Directors; the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum Collection Committee; and the Amarillo Medical Center Board.
Her interests also included a strong appreciation and passion for art. She was exceptionally skilled at recognizing true artistic talent, and provided essential support for many artists over the years. This involvement resulted in close personal friendships with several artists, even after they became well known.
Despite notable achievements and recognition, she clearly valued the opportunity to be a loving wife, mother and grandmother as her greatest accomplishment. She regarded the most memorable moments of her life being her marriage to Chope, in addition to the adoptions of their children, Julie and John.
Mrs. Phillips is survived by her husband of 64 years, Chope Phillips; a daughter, Julie Phillips Puckett, of Amarillo; a son, John Phillips and wife, Tammy, of Amarillo; and grandchildren, Lela and Hunter Puckett of Amarillo.
In lieu of flowers or other gifts, the family requests donations to the St. Andrew’s Episcopal School Scholarship Endowment Fund, 1515 S. Georgia, Amarillo, TX 79102 or a favorite charity.