30 Jun Senior in Action – Phyllis White
Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
Former County of LA Public Library Administrator is having the time of her life as a retiree; meeting fascinating people who are active seniors, and volunteering for Soroptimist International of Norwalk and other women’s groups.
Senior in Action – Phyllis White
by Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
During business hours Monday through Friday, Phyllis White can be found at her family’s business, White’s Draperies & More, located in Placentia. Phyllis explained why she has not yet retired at age 89, “It keeps my mind active. I love interacting with customers. As a designer, my favorite task is helping clients select fabrics that will work well in their home. It was my mother’s influence as a gifted seamstress that steered me towards this career. When my husband and I married, I sewed draperies for our bedroom with Mom’s help. We used my dining room table to lay out the fabric.”
Phyllis met her husband, Walter White, while attending Bell High School, because her best friend had a wild crush on Walter, the star of the football team. Walter was dating someone else at the time, and hung out at the local ice cream parlor. Phyllis’ friend was so starstruck that she begged Phyllis to buy ice cream or sodas on their walk home from school just so she could ogle Walter. Therefore, it was a shock when it was Phyllis who received a call from Walter asking her out for dinner and dancing. She accepted! Phyllis’ parents were so impressed when Walter brought Phyllis back home before curfew, even though her father was kidding when he said 10 pm! Her mom and dad didn’t argue when she and Walter decided to be married while she was still in high school. However, Walter’s mother refused to sign the legal documents needed in California because he was 19, so they ran off to Yuma, AZ and eloped. Phyllis credits their long 59 year marriage to their stubborn resolve to prove those people wrong who said their relationship was doomed because they got hitched too young.
As their family expanded to three sons and a daughter, so did their home drapery business grow until they outgrew the garage and purchased a store of their own in Whittier, then later in La Mirada. At one point, their drapery business included a workroom employing fifty people, but one night a devastating fire destroyed everything. From that day, they chose to focus on sales, buying and cutting the fabric, then sending it out for sewing. Their youngest son Kevin joined the family business, and when the rent tripled in La Mirada, they moved their shop to Placentia, near Kevin’s home.
Walter and Phyllis bought a Canyon Lake house (near Elsinore) with a motorboat for waterskiing. Then Walter decided to learn to pilot a small plane, so they sold the Canyon Lake property and boat. He became an instrument pilot and Phyllis loved their weekend flights. Walter and Phyllis often flew to Laughlin where they would eat breakfast, then gamble long enough to win the money for fuel to fly there and back. They joined a Flying Club and made many new friends while partying with fellow aviation enthusiasts.
Walter was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which put an end to their flying. After his death, Phyllis sold their large home in La Mirada, and moved to Morningside, a senior residence in Fullerton. She had fallen several times, so her son Kevin encouraged her to join a gym and utilize a personal trainer to help her regain strength and balance.
Phyllis and Walter had three sons; Dennis, Rick and Kevin, and adopted a daughter, Michiko, from Japan. Dennis died in 1952 due to complications from diabetes. The four adult children graced Phyllis with 6 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. She recently attended the graduation of her eldest great-granddaughter, held at a Las Vegas casino auditorium large enough to hold the friends and family of the 700 high school graduating seniors from Henderson, NV.
At Morningside, Phyllis plays cards, “Hand & Foot,” every Wednesday evening, and every other Saturday, she participates in a game called Spinner (dominos) followed by Bingo. Phyllis says her son, the manager at White’s Draperies, allows her to leave work early so as not to miss special activities hosted at Morningside. Her other hobbies include sewing and jigsaw puzzles – challenging but relaxing.
If you’re thinking of upgrading your window treatments, contact Phyllis at White’s Draperies & More, (714) 572-8099. She will gladly help you design your home’s new look. Or visit www.whitesdraperies.net
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