Phyllis Dufford Cline, age 82, of Chesterfield, Missouri passed away on Wednesday, November 16, 2022 at Mercy Hospital in Saint Louis, Missouri, after a lengthy battle with Lewy Body Dementia.
Dear Phyllis bore the burden of that most awful disease with rare strength, grace and even sometimes with humor. She often laughed at her inability to converse by saying “That didn’t make a bit of sense, did it?”
Phyllis was a delightful enigma. On one hand she was a friendly, playful, soft-spoken Southern Belle with a bright and ready smile. On the other hand, when faced with a challenge, she would take charge forcefully and guide her followers gently toward a solution.
Phyllis had three main passions in life. She was a world-class shopper, especially for shoes. (Or “shoooz” as she called them.). She also loved reading novels, in particular ones set in the south. And finally, and most importantly, she loved interacting with friends and family. Incredibly she smoothly integrated herself into the Cline family without rancor or conflict. She was a wonderful step-mom to Steve and Jeff, step-mother-in-law to Robin and Drees and a revered grandma to Elsa, Marin, Chloe and Gigi. And of course, a lovingly devoted wife to Jerry.
She had many adoring fans, but she especially enjoyed her two families: The Midwest Clines, to whom she was known as “Phee” and her South Carolina extended family who called her “Lupy” (Apparently as a child her curly hair resembled that of the cartoon girl Little Lulu.) Her devoted nieces, Tara and Tiffany, regarded Phyllis as a second mother and a role model for how they should live. She had a lifelong friendship with Jackie Morrison, Jackie’s husband (Dr. Lee Morrison) and their two children Elise and Roxanne.
Phyllis and husband Jerry had a “fairy tale” romance. They had met briefly in the summer of 1966 in Huntsville, AL but did not see each other again for over 20 years. In 1986, Jerry decided to try and find her. She had long departed from Huntsville by then, so Jerry simply tried “Information” in various large cities of the southeast. After several blind alleys, he found her in Atlanta. They got quickly reacquainted and were married by her father Rev. Fred E. Dufford in Orangeburg, SC on Valentine’s Day in 1987. Phyllis and Jerry adored each other and spent 35 happy years together in St. Louis and South Carolina.
Phyllis did most of her growing up in Charleston, SC. Her loving parents (known to the family as “Meemo” and “Peepo”) taught her the arts of Southern gentility, honesty and the importance of family. She graduated from Chicora High School in North Charleston, where she was very active, then completed her formal education with a bachelor’s degree from Newberry College in Newberry, SC.
After college, Phyllis began her professional career in the field of secondary education in 1962, teaching high school math. A few years later America’s space program gained traction and IBM recruited her to join their group working on the Saturn V rocket in Huntsville, AL. She accepted their offer and ultimately had a stellar career at IBM, becoming one of their first female System Engineers. Later she was part of the IBM team in Atlanta which developed the early ATM’s. In St. Louis her primary customers were the St. Louis Police Department and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Ironically, that is the school from which Jerry obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Phyllis was admired by customers, bosses and co-workers. She even inspired poetry! The following, written by a co-worker on the occasion of her 25th anniversary with IBM sums up the high esteem in which she was held:
Sometimes the office seems to be
A hustling daily chase,
But one among us tempers that
With gentility and grace.
Beguiling every customer
She keeps them out of harm
With good old Yankee know-how
And old-fashioned Southern Charm
When planning sessions start to drift
And veer away from course
Who’s at the helm to steady them
With the subtlest of force?
Yes, who’s the dark-haired beauty
Who makes us toe the line
With iron hand and velvet glove
Our own dear Phyllis Cline!
Phyllis retired from IBM in 1996. Ever empathetic toward children, shortly after retirement she became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for disadvantaged kids in St. Louis County. For three years she served as an advocate to two children of a drug-addicted, divorced mother. As one would expect, she had a very positive affect on their lives. What a caring human being she was!
Here is a final acknowledgement of Phyllis’ caring nature. Jerry was adopted in 1939 and knew nothing of his birth parents or other aspects of his origins. It was through Phyllis that in May of 2001, all the details of his birth came to light. It was as if she had been sent to Jerry to help solve the mystery of his life. Her help in that existential task was truly the gift of a lifetime.
Dear Phyllis is gone now, but most of us who knew her realize we were touched by an angel.
Phyllis is survived by her husband, Jerry K. Cline; two step-sons, Jeffrey (Drees) Cline and Steven (Robin) Cline; four granddaughters, Elsa Cline, Marin Cline, Chloe Cline, and Gigi Cline; sister, Fredna (the late Earle) Belue; brother-in-law, Benjamin (Ann) Cline; nieces Tiffany Johnson and Tara Hulsey; and a host of other family members and friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Fred Ephraim Dufford and Mary Emily Dufford; and sister, Margene (the late Jack) Odom.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Lewy Body Dementia Association.
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