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Leah Lucy Durtschi Phillips

Leah Lucy Durtschi Phillips - Eulogy
Written, presented and copyrighted by Brenda Rambur
Given May 17, 2008 – Tetonia Ward
Lucy & John Phillips
Lucy & John Phillips, early 1950's

Home at Last - Little Lucy is Home at Last! It is truly heart warming to be back in Teton Valley, surrounded by family and friends as we pay tribute to our dear mother, Leah Lucy Durtschi Phillips. As Lucy’s eldest daughter, it is my honor to share her life story. In order to tell – Lucy’s Story – I’m letting you know that my message is going to be spiritual and somewhat religious in nature and if I say anything that offends any of you – please know it is not intentional – but Lucy’s life cannot be told in any other way because she lived her life based on her religion, which is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints... more commonly called Mormons. Should you have any questions, please come and talk with me afterward... I know my mother would want you to have your questions answered.

Before her mortal birth – there were preparations in the making of a special family for this beautiful spirit to come to Earth. Lucy’s Father, Alfred Durtschi, was born in Switzerland. Alfred’s family was introduced to a new religion by Mormon missionaries in 1905. These missionaries came preaching about a God that had a body of flesh and bones, not a God without body, parts or passions – this along with other gospel principles spoke truth to their hearts and the family members, one by one, were firmly converted. Because this religion was so different, they suffered persecutions by people who used to be their friends. After much thought and prayer, they decided to leave all their possessions and come to America to freely practice their new found faith. Alfred and his brothers eventually settled in the beautiful area of Teton Valley, Idaho nestled beneath the western slopes of the Grand Teton Peaks. They loved this land as it reminded them so much of the Swiss Alps they had left behind.

Lucy’s Mother, Ida Aeschbacher, was also born in Switzerland. Like Alfred’s family, they also were converted to the Mormon faith and many members of Ida’s family came to Salt Lake City. She did not know Alfred yet... but as fate would have it, Alfred came to Salt Lake looking for a wife and he found sweet little Ida. They were married in the Salt Lake LDS Temple in October of 1914.

I wish I had time to tell you some of the hardships and events these brave pioneers to America went through. It is truly amazing what people of this time experienced and sacrificed in order to live in a land of freedom and practice their religious beliefs. What I can tell you is that this new family of Alfred and Ida Durtschi was based on a deep conversion to a religion that answered all Earthly questions about why they were here and their purpose in life. It gave them a strong foundation of inspiration and faith, regardless of any obstacle or hardship, their life was happy, meaningful and loving.

Alfred and Ida had 3 children – Arnold, Isabel and Walter. Their family would not be complete without the birth of one more baby – Lucile, but surprise!! Little Lucy must have decided she couldn’t wait any longer and tagged along with Lucile. Two little red-headed girls were born on February 13th, 1924, and made this family complete. Being Lucile’s twin sister was always such a treasure to Lucy. She loved her and always felt incomplete if her twin wasn’t right there! I’m sure part of her sense of always sharing with others came from being a twin. As I sat with her in her last days, she would always make sure I got my share of food or treat, asking “Did you get yours?” The last and final name my mother could speak without prompting was “Lucile”. It is also very interesting to note that just a few weeks earlier on January 5th, 1924, Ida’s sister “Lena” had a set of twin girls as well - Betty and Barbara Duersch. I don’t think this was a coincidence! These girls lived just a few miles apart, shared their childhood experiences and developed a life long bond. Mom told us their best summer entertainment was the Duersch “swimming hole”. One day the kids got Aunt Lena to jump in with her clothes on... She made a great dive – but somehow managed to loose her false teeth... the boys took a few dives under water and luckily found them! Now we know where Mom got some of her spunk since Lucy has taken a few dives into swimming pools fully clothed as well!

As a little girl Lucy really did have fun!!! Being born on a dairy farm with lots of room for adventures in nature, pastures to roam, berries to pick, horses and sleigh rides, and cows to milk – (I did say fun didn’t I?...) You may think milking cows wouldn’t fall into this category, but you need to know one more thing about this special family – they were Durtschi’s and Durtschi – loosely translated – means “Love of Work” or “Work is Fun”, especially when you are singing. Grandma Durtschi told her children to sing to the cows and they will give more milk. In my mothers notes she wrote of the wonderful feelings she had when going into the barn to milk. The smell of fresh hay and the warmth and gentle mooing of the cows as they sang and milked were wonderful memories to her and she missed that feeling of “working” in the barn. Yes work became “fun” and she taught that to her children. I remember about age 10, Mom and I were driving in the car and I mentioned that I needed to file my nails – they were getting too long and she smiled and said “if your fingernails are too long, you haven’t been working hard enough!” That was the last time I told her I needed a manicure!!

Lucy’s mother, Ida, had a great love of music. She taught her children to sing beautiful songs and the 3 Durtschi sisters learned to sing as a trio as well as learning at least one musical instrument. Mom related the memory of her mother getting her up early in the morning, sitting her on the kitchen table top and as she dangled her legs over the edge of the table, her mother would sit in the chair facing her and they would sing the Alto part together This love of music was something she learned to share with others.

I do want to relate a story that exemplifies Lucy’s gumption, even as a young girl. Lucy had a favorite horse named Bess. Well, one day she was in Driggs, the largest town in Teton Valley, with her family for an annual celebration which included a horse race down Main Street. Lucy decided that the following year she must enter her horse, Bess, because she just knew that Bess was a real runner and could outrun any of those horses. The next year came and Lucy took Bess to town and got herself all situated for the race. What she wasn’t counting on was Bess hadn’t been to town and wasn’t used to all the cars and commotion. A car came by "spooking" Bess and off Lucy went – she hit the ground and didn’t win the race... but She tried! This was a trait she carried with her through out her life. Lucy went for her Dreams. She took action. She would figure out ways to accomplish her goals and she would not give up. She truly believed the only way to fail was to not take the initiative and TRY.

Her Mamma and Papa taught their children to be responsible and the true value of feeling accomplishment. Most of all they were exposed to feelings of the spirit thru their experience of church conferences and meeting general authorities and prophets of the church. In her writings she tells of powerful joyful feelings that gave her hope and inspired her in many choices and decisions throughout her life because of these convictions. It was never hard for her to make a choice. She would pray and act on the answers that came to her.

Lucy grew into a vivacious young woman. She had long dark auburn hair, hazel eyes, an ivory completion, complete with a few freckles, and a dazzling smile. During World War II, she and her 2 sisters went to Salt Lake City to work in a facility that made ammunition to supply to the Army. While there, they also went to lots of USO dances and she was quite a jitter bug queen. She loved to dance. During this time her sister, Isabel, took up hairdressing for an occupation and Lucy decided she would do the same. This was a good decision and fit her personality perfectly. She was good at fixing hair – but she was even better at listening to her customers – because she loved them! Beauty salons would come to play a prominent role in her life.

In 1946, Lucy and Lucile served a full time mission for the church. She always said this isn’t something she had in her plans... but her father had promised the Lord because he was so grateful to the missionaries that left their family to come to Switzerland and share the gospel with them, that all of his children would go on a mission. Well, she said – how can you not go – when the Lord has been promised! Leaving home and going to northern California to serve the people of this area was to be one of the most cherished times in her life. She had many faith promoting experiences, but we only have time for one. In Mother's writings she tells of a woman, Marie Anderson. Lucy and her companion knocked on her door one day, spoke to her briefly, and gave her a Book of Mormon. They could tell that she had problems with her eyesight because she did not look at them clearly – but rather looked off in the distance. Later, they went back to see her - Marie told them, I must be baptized – this book is true. I had prayed for answers about my life and you came with this book. I can read it without my glasses! It was a joyful time to help this woman find the answer she had been seeking. Because of spending time in this area, Lucy and her husband would later decide to move to northern California. It’s interesting how life unfolds..!

Returning from her mission in 1947, Lucy gave a report at a church conference. A handsome young man, John Phillips, was in the audience and touched by the amazing spirit of this beautiful redhead, he asked her out, fell in love, and they married May 19th, 1948 in the Idaho Falls, LDS Temple. They moved to Tetonia to his parents homestead, Milt and Sybil Phillips, and farmed for several years. During this time eight children were born: John, Brenda, Ronnie, Milton, Merritt, Holly ... Lastly – twins, Dean and Dale – which she prayed for and finally got. I told you she was determined! Lucy gave her children lots of room to have their own adventures on the farm – just as she did as a child. Lucy loved John’s family. I watched my mother fix Grandmas’ hair every Saturday for church on Sunday. We learned how important it is enjoy your Grandma! There were many visits with Phillips relatives coming to the farm. Lucy would cook her famous Dutch oven chicken on an open fire and there were always homemade cinnamon roles and other goodies to eat. What fun we had!

As we know, there are always trials in this life. One of the children, Ronnie, died unexpectedly from an accident at age 11. During this time our parents taught their children that death is not to be feared. There is great comfort in knowing we will be together again as a family and there is not only hope, but joy in knowing our brother was only separated from us for a while. What a great lesson we were given at that time. Lucy was a mother who taught by example. She did not just preach the gospel – she lived it. Her actions of serving, loving others, and living a faith based life gave her family a strong foundation which we cannot deny.

Life on a farm is not always financially rewarding and in 1968, John and Lucy decided they should try making a life in a larger community where there were more job opportunities. They hated leaving the small valley and dear friends and family, but after much prayer and a few trips to the area, they moved their family to Fair Oaks, California. In reading an old letter of Dad’s he speaks of driving down a main road and seeing a street sign called McKay, which is the last name of one of our prophets. Then turning on another street, he saw a street sign, Deseret, another common LDS name. Driving down Deseret he saw a familiar sight – an LDS church building. He wondered if this would be the place for his family to settle. He went to church that Sunday morning wondering what to expect... Well, the Bishop conducting the meeting was Bishop Scott Newey – for those of you that know Bp Newey, I don’t need to say anymore. For those that don’t know him, you need to. ...my mom and dad bought a house and moved their children into Northridge Ward and let the rest of their lives unfold as it should. It was the right place and right decision. They were able to buy a new home big enough for their large family – it was in the right neighborhood – all the schools were within walking distance – there was a perfect room in the home that allowed for a small in-home beauty salon - which set my mother in place to perform her greatest work - righteously raising her young children alone as a widow at the age of 46.

Just two years after moving to California, tragedy struck. My father had been hired as the manager of the stake welfare farm. He had a fateful accident in his farm truck and was killed. Since his accident happened while he was at work, there was an insurance benefit paid to my mother. In faith, she prayed for guidance. She knew she needed to add more equipment to her home salon – at least one more hair dryer. She saw an ad in the local paper saying beauty salon equipment for sale and after calling, went to see the condition of the dryer she was interested in. When she got there, the man had a small salon full of equipment for sale – Mom asked, "What are you doing with the rest of this? He said, "I’m closing up and it’s all for sale." Mom contacted her home teacher Brother Snow. He came with her and looked at the little shop and he told her, we can help you get this remodeled and I think this would be a good little business for you. Well that was all Lucy needed, she was off like a shot! That beauty salon was the first of 4 salons she would eventually own in the Fair Oaks/Citrus Heights area. She worked hard, but thoroughly enjoyed her relationship with "her" girls that worked in the salon and all the many customers that came to have their hair done. Sure there were lots of ups and downs, many times money was very tight – but she always managed. Sometimes she needed help and help was given, she appreciated this and accepted help gratefully knowing this is how the Lord expects us to live. Sharing and helping each other. I don’t have to tell any of you that Mom was always there to help others. It was just how she lived.

There are many special memories that our family can relate about Mom and we don’t have time to tell you all the wonderful things she did during this brief time I’m allotted, but I do want to say that for me... I was always a little rebellious. Not nearly as generous as my mother. There were times I would see her working so hard in her little shop – and then I would often hear her say to a customer, "No No, you don’t have to pay this time. I want to give this to you!" One day I couldn’t take it any more... I decided to speak up and scolded her saying – "Mom... Do you know your children have holes in their tennis shoes?" She paused and looked at me tenderly and said, "Brenda, their shoes are just fine... this woman needs the help and I need the blessing!" And she was blessed over and over again. She truly knew that money could buy material things – but loving and serving others... well there is nothing on Earth that can give you more joy or more blessings!

Fortunately, or I believe again another blessing – a wonderful person, Janness Cassidy, came into our mothers life just prior to our father’s death. Janess and Mom shared so many wonderful fun and spiritual times together - I know she filled a void that we, as her children, could not. I know Mom would want her to know how much support and comfort she gained from having her in her life. She was literally a God send!

Even though she had a very busy life, Lucy actively participated in various church callings. She served in Mutual, was a music chorister, choir director, and arranged special musical numbers for sacrament meetings / which she loved because she could help the youth develop their talent... but I think her favorite calling was teaching Primary, especially the children turning 8 years old. This is the time that the children are of age to be baptized and she would gather all the kids in her class and make sure they attended their classmate’s baptism. Afterwards they would have hamburgers or another treat and sometimes they went to her house to play games and have fun. I know mom did not have lots of money or extra time to do this – but it wasn’t a consideration – it was a decision based on LOVE for these children.

As in all areas of her life, Lucy did not just tell her children to work... she worked with them! We built many a rock wall together to create a beautiful landscaped yard in Idaho and cleaning beauty shops in California was an added bonus!... but after the work was done - oh how she loved to see us have fun!! She made sure each child was being entertained and not sitting idly by. As children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, we all have many memories of crazy fun times with Grandma Lucy, whether it was playing fun games such as Foggy in the Meadow, Jolly Jolly Butcher Boy, or Going to Heaven on an Ironing Board. She didn’t mind if the kids rough-housed, tossed each other in the air in blankets or just ran in circles – as long as they were having Fun together that’s all that mattered.

As she grew close to retirement, Lucy thought about going on a 2nd mission for the church. This became a reality in 1991 when she was called to serve in the Nevada Mission. She wrote letters and told us of many wonderful experiences bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to so many people and there were many baptisms that brought great joy as lives were changed. She didn’t want to return, but she did come home and finally decided that she really should retire.

Since she was retiring, our sister, Holly, wanted Mom to move to Portland and live near her. This would be one of Lucy’s most heartfelt blessings. Our dear brother-in-law, Mark, and Holly built her a beautiful new home just down the street from the Portland Temple. There my mother spent many days doing what she enjoyed most – temple work. She went daily, most times doing more that one session. If you will allow me to be a little personal here... It was during this time that I know my Mother put my name in the temple every time she went... looking back I truly believe she went so much because I needed so much help... For as I mentioned before – I was somewhat rebellious and wanted to live my life in my own way. It was during this time that many small and wonderful miracles happened in my life – and I gained a true testimony and love of the gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I will be forever grateful to my mother for her unconditional love - her determination to never give up on me or any of her children. For those of you who are in a similar circumstance and do not know what to do with your children... live a life of example, make sure they know you love them, and pray for God to allow His angels to take them by the hand, and then have the Faith that you know He will do his part.

Yes, Lucy truly enjoyed her "retirement" years in Portland. She had a beautiful yard full of flowers, and not only was it convenient for her to go to the Temple, but she opened her home to visitors and many other people came and stayed with her so they could attend the temple. It was a time of fulfillment... but it was also a time of trial as she began to develop a loss of memory due to Alzheimer’s disease. She knew it was coming – I’m sure she was scared – but she continued valiantly on - living each day the best she could. When she could no longer safely live alone, a dear family member, our sister-in-law Cosette’s mother, Marylyn Gilisse, came and lived with mother and was such a great help. We so appreciate Marylyn for the service and time she spent with Mom. She was truly patient and kind to our Mother and Mom truly loved her.

Eventually in 2005, Mom needed more care and once again Mark and Holly built another home, this time in Rigby, Idaho, so she and her devoted sister, Lucile, could live together. Lucile was so good to help her sister and we so appreciate Lucile for her service to Lucy over the course of several years. We knew that this was the place Mom wanted to be most. Looking back, we know this was a somewhat daunting task for Aunt Lucile – after all - don’t forget she was no spring chicken!! Now that the time is past, I know it was and is a time of priceless memories. Lucy and Lucile were together, until it was necessary for Lucy to have more help. Mom came back to the Fair Oaks area last summer, July 2007 living in care facilities that could meet her special needs. Again, thanks to Holly and Mark – our mother got the best care possible. She truly was blessed beyond measure by their generosity. I know Mom would want me to publicly say “thank you - thank you - thank you”... to Mark and Holly for all you provided ...not just for her, but for the many trips and events we attended together as a family because you made it possible.

Having Mom return to California was a very personal blessing to me as I could be with her almost daily. She was quite a character and even though she could not talk much... right when you would least expect it she would come up with a real zinger!! Sometimes we would just do silly stuff like pull funny faces together just like kids do... how sweet those times are to me. As her memory faded, her communication was very limited – but she was able to sing songs! Oh how grateful we were for beautiful songs that allowed us to communicate our feelings and words of love for each other and our family and friends. It seemed as we would walk along and I’d talk about something songs would come to mind to fit the occasion. We sang old favorites, hymns and lots of primary songs.

One day in January, we had to make a trip to the doctor and it couldn’t be postponed... that day we had a terrible storm – it was really raining and the wind was blowing hard... All of a sudden Mom started to sing “Oh the weather outside is frightful!". I just cracked up... she knew what she wanted to say – and found the perfect song to let me know. We did have a hymn that is our "theme" song called "Count Your Blessings". We’d sing it every time I went to visit. The hymns message to me exemplifies her life lesson about the principal of gratitude and choosing happiness. No matter how bad things got, or what hardships she had to bear – she would have the most optimistic attitude. What she did was quite simple – she stopped thinking about her sorry state and chose to think about all the positive things she did have in her life... this would usually end in another trip to the neighbors with a dish for their dinner or a letter or phone call to someone who "really" needed to be cheered up.

During the past month of April, she became increasingly tired and during our last real conversation together I asked her late in the day if she was ready to go to sleep for the night and she responded, “FOREVER!!” and gave me a determined look and then that magical smile and we both hugged each other knowing she meant it! The following day, she didn’t want to sing – but listened patiently while I played the piano to her and sang some songs, but for the first time she did not join in.

When I checked on her the next day, Saturday, April 26th, she was running a high temperature and I had her taken to the hospital. In talking with the doctor he advised us that she had an internal infection and it was determined her Earthly life was coming to a close. All her children came during that next week to tell her good-bye and lend support to those of us here. On Saturday, May the 3rd, at 10:20 PM, with her loving children singing choruses of songs around her bed, she slipped peacefully out of her old tired earthly body and I believe into the arms of her dear husband, John. She had waited such a long long time for this reunion. It will be their 60th wedding anniversary in just a few more days. I think Dad finally got his request to have her home with him and their son, Ronnie!

In closing, I would like to read a poem specifically for my brothers and sister, Holly - Lucy’s children: (you grandchildren and great-grandchildren and extended family should listen too...)

You’ll never forget your mother’s face,
The sound of her voice, The gentleness of her touch…
They let you know you were loved.

You’ll never forget the stories she told,
The traditions she handed down...
They let you know who you are.

You’ll never forget the lessons she taught,
The things she stood for...
They are her gift and your legacy.

You’ll never forget, and you’ll always know
That you honor her every day
In how you live and who you are.

This is a wonderful day – it is a day to share our memories and words of gratitude for this genuinely loving person who we treasure. She is a beautiful and truly amazing spirit who loved life and those in it, and so we say to you, Lucy - We love You!

I apologize for taking so much time – but I had to say those things that came into my heart. I know that Lucy’s spirit lives. I know that our Heavenly Father has tremendous love for her and each of us. I know that through Jesus Christ we will be resurrected and have the opportunity to live together again through the Eternities. May God comfort us in our loss and bless each of us as we remember to love one another. I say these things in Jesus name. Amen.

Durtschi.com Admin: mark@durtschi.com

Page Updated: 27 July 2008