Phyllis Baker Newton


Phyllis Baker Newton

 (1923 – 2018)

 

            Phyllis Newton, 94, of Naples, Fla. and Harwich Port, died on March 5, 2018 at Harbor Point in Centerville. 

 

            Phyllis was born on October 12, 1923 in Chicago to Marjorie Newstrom and George E. Baker.  She was married to John W. Newton (1921-2012) for sixty-four years.  They raised their family and worked in and around Boston, living almost 30 years in Needham. 

 

            Phyllis was an award-winning journalist and an accomplished businesswoman.  Upon graduation from Simmons College in 1944 she joined the Lowell Sun as a city reporter and feature writer.  Her work included writing obituaries for men killed in the final year of the war, an experience, she said, that made her a life-long pacifist.  During a 25-year career in journalism she wrote for the Newton Graphic, Dedham Transcript, Needham Chronicle, where she was the editor, the Patriot Ledger, and the Boston Herald Traveler, in which she had a daily advice column, a pen name (Nancy Carson),wide readership, and her picture on the side of newspaper delivery trucks.  Phyllis capped her writing career as a stringer for TIME.

 

            In 1976, Phyllis launched the Career Center in Needham, a career counseling and job placement business catering to women like herself -- college educated, empty-nesters desiring to enter, or re-enter, the workforce.  The business was a notable success.

 

            Phyllis subscribed to a dictum made famous by Tip O’Neill, her Harwich Port neighbor, “All politics is local.”  For years, she was actively engaged in local civic affairs in Needham serving as a town meeting member and a board member of the League of Women Voters, YMCA and Red Cross.

 

            As a young mother -- and a pacifist -- Phyllis chose the Unitarian church for herself and her children.  She derived great spiritual sustenance from music.  Her tastes in music ranged from opera to show tunes to Ragtime.  Her main music system was a used Sony Walkman.  Almost to her dying day Phyllis could sing dozens of songs including tunes from the 1920’s such as Big Butter and Egg Man and Tessie, Stop Teasing Me.

 

            Phyllis played and taught bridge for 50 years, produced and directed acclaimed community musicals at her beloved Naples Bath and Tennis Club, volunteered at her local hospital and elementary school, and, pushing her Depression era mantra to the limit -- Make it do. Wear it out. Use it up. Do without. – played tennis for 47 years with pretty much the same racquet.

 

            At age 91, after years preaching highway safety to her children and grandchildren -- e.g. “Serious accidents can happen when opening a package of cookies while driving.”-- Phyllis put into practice what she preached, she sold her Grand Marquis -- with a peace sign on the door -- and gave up driving.

 

            Phyllis lived the 9th inning of her life with almost as much gusto as the first 8 innings. Her high gusto levels can be attributed to a number of factors – afternoon spins on her tricycle, a vodka tonic at 5:00 sharp, Jeopardy at 7:00, a Costco biscotti at around midnight, a Dunkin’ Donuts Jelly Stick on occasion, good genes, smart investments, and, most importantly, her deep engagement with a galaxy of family and friends.  Her favorite needlepoint said it all, “Count your age by friends not years.” 

 

            Phyllis’ vast social network shrunk as she outlived her pals.  She kept a necrology with friends’ names and death dates and no doubt viewed the growing list with a sense of loneliness, leavened by luck.  She’d opine, "I seem to be the last leaf on the vine.”  Phyllis approached death matter-of-factly, even cheerily.  She said, “I’m not long for this world.  I lived long enough.  I’m ready to go.  I’m 94!  That’s really old.  Don’t feel bad when I go.  The end.” 

 

            It’s, of course, not “The end”.  The memory of our dear dynamo Phyllis will be with us to our dying day — positive, powerful, influential, wonderful memories.  

 

            Phyllis gave us a gift of incomparable value – a vivid sense of what a life fully lived looks like.  When she finally began losing steam, she devoted her waning energy to expressing her profound appreciation and gratitude for her life, family and friends. 

 

            She’s survived by a family she adored and who adored her back: son John and daughter-in-law Nancy (Nye) of Warren, Conn. and Chatham; son Gary and daughter-in-law Joan (O’Connor) of New York City; daughter Beth and son-in-law Jim Kastritis of Yarmouth Port; six grandchildren and their spouses -- Sarah and Nat Worden of Litchfield, Conn.; Kate and John Murray of Walpole; Cullen and Olivia Newton of New York City, Julie and Ryan Irwin of Reading; Jack and Mary Newton of New York City; and Mallory and Harrison Buck of Aspen, Colo.; and, six great grandchildren – Sophie and Connor Murray, Gus and Sam Worden, and Mary and Caroline Irwin.

 

            She also leaves her brother John E. (Jack) Baker of Vero Beach, Fla., and her nephew Scott Webster Baker of Brooklyn, New York.

 

            A memorial service and celebration of Phyllis’ life will take place at the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Harwich Port, MA on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 11:00 – the day before Mother’s Day.

 

            In lieu of flowers, kindly consider giving to Boston Children’s Hospital to which Phyllis was a longtime donor.  Contributions can be made online in memory of Phyllis Newton(www.bostonchildrens.org/givenow), or checks payable to Boston Children’s Hospital may be sent to Boston Children’s Hospital Trust (401 Park Drive, Suite 602, Boston MA 02215-5301).  Thank you.