Phyllis Nissen, 87, of rural Maquoketa, Iowa, died peacefully at Crestridge Care Center, Maquoketa, on Friday January 26, 2018 after a short illness.
A memorial visitation will be held at the Carson Celebration of Life Center in Maquoketa from 4 to 6 pm on Wednesday, February 7, 2018. The funeral service will take place at The United Church of Christ on Thursday, February 8, at 11 am, followed by a luncheon in the church fellowship hall. A private burial will be held at Mt. Hope Cemetery at a later date.
Phyllis was born on December 20th, 1930 in Maquoketa, Iowa, to Walter and Beulah (Rimmer) Rugger. She graduated from Maquoketa Community High School in 1948, valedictorian of her class. Phyllis was editor of the high school yearbook and the first chair flutist in the high school band, and also sang in chorus.
Following high school, Phyllis attended Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona on a full music (flute) scholarship. Because her father worked for the railroad, she traveled back and forth to school for free by train. While there, she earned several awards and honors in music and mathematics before leaving college to be married. She played flute and piccolo for the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra as well as the Arizona State band and orchestra. While on Christmas break from college in 1950, she met her future husband, Donald Nissen, after she was asked to complete a foursome for a pinochle game across the street from her parents. It was a match made in heaven! They married on April 22, 1951 and together they had four children: Cindy (1953), Chris (1957), David (1958) and Jonathan (1962).
Family was very important to Phyllis. When their children were in school, hardly a game, or program was missed by Phyllis and Don. They continued to be supportive and play a large role in their children's and grandchildren's lives throughout all their days. Phyllis enjoyed traveling with her family and was in all 50 states except Washington and Oregon. She and Don also loved birding and planned many vacations in order to see a specific variety of bird. They particularly loved Arizona and also took many trips abroad including Chile, England, Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Antigua, as well as Canada and Mexico.
Other activities Phyllis took great pleasure in included counted cross-stitch, playing cards and dominoes, canoeing, gardening, collecting Dickens houses, reading, and having breakfast with her many friends.
Phyllis enjoyed being active in many local groups which included the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, PEO, Red Hat Society, Friends of Jackson County Conservation, Foster Care Review Board, Friends of the Maquoketa Caves, the Jackson County Historical Society, Friends of Ohnward, and also playing her flute for Peace Pipe Players.
Phyllis was devoted to the United Church of Christ (formerly the Congregational Church) where she first began attending as a child. She sang in the choir from 1943 - 2017 and even sang from her wheelchair 2 months before her death. Other church involvement included playing the flute and piccolo for numerous programs, and teaching Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. She was a longstanding member of the Women's Fellowship group holding several offices and was the first woman moderator of the UCC. Phyllis also enjoyed chairing the October Fest, working with the Cookie Walk, a Taste of Heaven, and helped compile a church cookbook. One of her last and most joyful activities for the church was being a mentor for the confirmation students.
Phyllis' employment history started when she worked at the local JC Penney store. After her husband purchased the John L. Jones Insurance and Real Estate Agency from his uncle in 1955, she started working there. Phyllis prepared taxes for hundreds of clients of this agency and other firms over the years. After retiring, she worked at Sue's Hallmark in Maquoketa.
Those left to honor Phyllis' memory include her children: Cindy (Fred) Hoffman of Alpharetta, GA, Chris (Mara) Nissen of Maquoketa, and David (Lynn) Nissen of Maquoketa; three grandchildren; three step-grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; several step great-grandchildren and step great-great grandchildren; several nephews; and her honorary son Eduardo Gomez (of Temuco, Chile) who had spent a year living with the family as a foreign exchange student.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her beloved husband of 65 years, Donald (in 2016), her son Jonathan (in 2008), three sisters and three brothers.
In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, memorials may be made to The United Church of Christ, Hospice of Jackson County, the Hurstville Interpretive Center, Ohnward Fine Arts Center, The Jackson County Historical Society and Museum, or the donor's choice.
Online condolences may be left at www.CarsonAndSon.com.
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