Farewell Phyllis, Ottery’s outpouring of love for ‘one of a kind’ TIC manager
PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 09:01 28 September 2018
Friends and family have paid loving tributes to Ottery’s ‘vibrant’ ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘dedicated’ tourist information centre manager who will be missed by all in the town.
Phyllis Baxter died on Saturday at the age of 73 with her brother, Victor, at her side for her last hours.
Originally from Balbriggan, in Ireland, Phyllis moved to the UK more than 50 years ago and enjoyed a career in marketing where she met her husband Derek.
She was Ottery’s tourist information centre manager for a decade and renowned for knowing ‘everyone and everything’ and continued her work as a volunteer until she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.
The Slade Road resident was Citizen of the Year last year after previously being ineligible for the award as a council employee but was regarded as an ‘ambassador for the town’.
She was instrumental in organising, promoting and photographing community events, including the town’s Late-night Christmas Shopping and residents’ Christmas lunch.
Her brother Victor recalled, when she was growing up, his talented older sister would sing solos and play the organ in Balrothery Church and came out of her shell when she moved to the town.
He said: “She was vibrant, giving, caring and bossy - but in a good way. She just wanted people to be happy, she put herself out for people. She was full of life and she battled until the end.
“She was reserved when she was at home and when she came to Devon she opened up and became bubbly to talk to. She was 100 per cent committed, it was amazing, she really cared about the town and had a lot of affection.
“She loved to come home to Ireland, she followed everything that happened here, she will come home to Ireland and be partly scattered in Ottery, that was her wish.
“The care and attention in the Yarty Ward, the doctors and nurses, everyone that looked after her loved her, they are a credit to their profession and the NHS.”
Hundreds of comments of support have also been posted on Facebook paying tribute to a ‘one-off’ special lady.
Friend and deputy mayor Josefina Gori, said the steering group behind late night shopping would be determined to make this year’s event the ‘best ever’ in Phyllis’ memory.
On behalf of the town council, Cllr Gori said: “Phyllis served for many years as manageress of the Tourist Information Office until her retirement but continued her unconditional service to the town as a volunteer, until illness forced her to leave behind a job she loved and had done with so much dedication.
“We will always remember Phyllis for her enthusiasm, love for the town and for the many photos she took at different events. Her love for the town and the people of Ottery reflected on the beautiful pictures she leaves now as her legacy.”
Glyn Dobson, former mayor and friend, said there was no-one like Phyllis, adding: “She is great inspiration for the town and her enthusiasm. She supported me for 11 years. I am going to miss her immensely. No-one is going to come anywhere near her enthusiasm and personality. She seemed to develop that on the job, she was a lot more serious at the beginning and developed this personality, she was the life and soul of the party. She had a saying ‘wait till I tell you’ and then she would tell me all about the things she was doing.”
John Campion, of Seasons Tea Room, recalled Phyllis was the fist person he and wife Myra met when they came to the town five years ago.
“She was fantastic and her enthusiasm for Ottery was immediately apparent,” he said, “Since then she has become a very good friend and will be sadly missed. Not just by us, but we are sure by the wider Ottery community.”
A service will be held at Ottery St Mary Church at noon, on Wednesday, October 17.
Editor’s note: The Herald would also like to add its own tribute to Phyllis, who helped many reporters over the years to find out the latest news in Ottery and, on the occasions where photographers were elsewhere, she was always happy to provide pictures from an event.