Phyllis LoRayne Shepherd Keyes of Storrs/Mansfield, died peacefully and surrounded by loved ones on Sunday, January 12, 2020 at the Mansfield Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation. She was born July 10th, 1920, in Fort Ward, Washington; the daughter of the late Gladys (Claire) and James Shepherd. She was predeceased by her husband, Harold Benjamin Keyes in 1980; her son-in-law, Stephen McEnery; and her great-grandson, Forest Benjamin Wax.
She is survived by her five children, Marsha Moench; Guy Keyes and his wife, Lynn; Claudia McEnery; Harold Keyes and his wife, Dot; Kendall Keyes and his wife Tammy; sixteen grandchildren, Tes Sullivan, Tyler Sullivan, Heather Moench, David Moench, Andrew Moench, Emily Moench, Melissa Saddington, Brad LaBel, Chris Keyes, Matthew Keyes, Jay Rhodes, Patrick Keyes, Caitlyn Keyes, Jonathan Keyes, Ben Keyes, Jake Keyes and Anna Keyes. She is also survived by eight great-grandchildren Ryan Oberhansly, Savannah Sullivan, Evie Moore, Jude Moore, Chloe LaBel, Jack Saddington, Logan Rhodes and Dylan Rhodes; and two great-great grandchildren Sawyer Oberhansly and Crue Oberhansly.
Phyllis had a colorful life. She was a very creative, talented, active and loving woman. She was born on an Air Force Base where her father was a pilot. The family transferred to Hawaii when Phyllis was three months old. Her parents were divorced when she was a young girl and, after attending Sacred Heart Academy in Honolulu, she was sent to live with a family in Waikiki. There, she learned how to surf with famous surfer, Duke Kahanamoku, and took dancing lessons in ballet and hula. Starting at around eight years old, she danced Hawaiian dances, including hula and gourds and swords in a dance troupe at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. She also graduated from Green’s Commercial College in Honolulu. When Phyllis was 19, she went with her mother to Bremerton Washington, where her grandmother had just passed.
From there, they moved to San Diego where she worked as a chorus dancer in nightclubs. After a short time, she went to Los Angeles and even auditioned for a show with Frank Sinatra at the Paramount Theater. Then she moved on to Las Vegas where she danced at a few casino shows and even got to work with Abbott and Costello. When Phyllis returned to Los Angeles she met and married her husband, Harold Keyes, who was a detective from the LA Police Department. They eventually moved to Mineola, New York where their family continued to grow.
Raising her family, plus taking classes at Parson’s School of Design, kept Phyllis very busy during those years. She eventually got a job at King Tops Manufacturing Company in Mineola NY, where she worked for twenty years as an Administrative Assistant where she was involved in every aspect of the business (from customer service to office management to bookkeeping and supervising shop work).
After retiring from King Tops in 1991, she moved to Connecticut where, through rug hooking and taking various courses in design, she pursued her most artistic years. Her creations from that time are magnificent and treasured. She also worked for a good number of her time in Connecticut for Frasier-Wagner Marketing where she was responsible for hiring people to cover food and product demos at various local markets.
Phyllis had a home in Jenson’s Rolling Hills, where she fretted about running out of birdseed for her many outside birds and enjoyed planting and tending to her beautiful garden and cozy home and yard. She was a loving woman who was always generous, supportive and concerned about her family. She was an animal lover and cared for many dogs and cats over her lifetime. She loved singing to the “oldies” a good joke and had a quick wit. There will never be another person like her. She will be so missed by her family and all who loved her.
Her family is very grateful for the great care she was given by the team at the Mansfield Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation and would like to offer a sincere thank you to all of the people there.
Her family will receive relatives and friends on Thursday, January 16 from 10am to 12pm at Potter Funeral Home, 456 Jackson Street (Rt. 195), Willimantic.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Phyllis’ name to help animals in need at ASPCA.org.
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