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Elizabeth Josephine (Betty Jo) Larison Phillips        

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[June 15, 2019]  LINCOLN - Betty Jo Phillips, 101-1/2, passed away on Sunday, June 2, 2019 at her home.

Visitation: 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 15 at Trinity Episcopal Church, Lincoln

Service: 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the church

Funeral home:  Quiram Peasley Funeral Home, Atlanta


Elizabeth Josephine Larison Phillips was born in Toulon, Illinois, on December 2, 1917, to Harry and Lillian Larison. She was the youngest of their six children, and from the beginning was known as Betty Jo. When Betty Jo was five, the family moved to Lincoln where she spent her growing-up years.

Throughout her life, Betty Jo had a love for theater and music and a deep spiritual grounding. When she was a child, one of her sisters began taking her to Trinity Episcopal Church, starting a life-long connection. She gave her first theatrical performance in a church when she was three years old, reciting the poem “Little Orphan Annie.” She acted in plays throughout grade school and at Lincoln High School, where she made history as the first female ever to receive a high school letter, recognizing her achievements in dramatic arts and music.

Betty graduated from Lincoln College in 1937 and shortly afterward married Thomas Lenon Phillips. Tom was from a large Texas family that Betty joined with enthusiasm. He was an activist for civil rights; and along with him, Betty became a member of the NAACP and together they helped the less fortunate.

In the first years of her marriage, while raising her first two children, Betty became part of the Peoria Players theater group and starred in plays in which her performances were acclaimed—including one that was especially important to her, the role of a nun in “The Joyous Season.” Her success on stage led Betty to consider a serious acting career. But professional acting gave Betty spiritual reservations, and instead of going to Hollywood, she decided to give up acting in favor of family life, with no regrets. She went on to have four more children.

In 1966, Betty suffered the first of two great losses. In his senior year of high school, her son John was killed in an automobile struck by a train. The next year, her husband Tom died of heart failure. The love and support of relatives, friends, and strangers, combined with her deep, quiet faith in God and devotion to church, helped sustain her through these hard times.


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During her years of being home, Betty stayed deeply involved as a volunteer team leader for Community Concerts, which brought musical performers of the highest quality to communities around the country. Noting her success as a volunteer, the New York office asked her to join their staff. Betty became a representative for the Midwest territory, traveling several states, sometimes through heavy snow, presenting the year’s headliners to various communities, helping them decide on artists, and booking their series. She loved her job and made new lifelong friends.

In December 2007, Betty celebrated her 90th birthday at the Maple Club in Lincoln. By this time, she had begun spending her winters with a daughter in Oak Park and by 2015, that had become her permanent home. In 2017, she invited all her friends and family to her 100th birthday in Oak Park’s Pleasant Home mansion. Family gathered this past December to celebrate once again. On June 2 of this year, the day she passed away, she was exactly 101-1/2 years old.

Betty was, for everyone whose life she touched, both a dear friend and an inspiration. She combined great skill with great love; she responded to the needs of her family without hesitation; she faced great losses with faith and resolution.

She is survived by her children: Larry (Pat) Phillips, Tony Phillips, Lisa (Bob) Wood, Sara (Paul) Muriello, and Peggy (Gene) Wedoff, 18 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren.

Services will be held on Saturday, June 15, 2019, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 402 Pekin Street, in Lincoln. Visitation begins at 9:00 a.m., followed by the funeral at 10:30 a.m.

Memorial donations may be made to Forward Movement, www.forward  or to Trinity Church, P.O. Box 386, Lincoln IL 62656.

Final arrangements are entrusted with Quiram-Peasley Funeral Home of Atlanta.

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