Phyllis McLean

May 25, 1930 – April 9, 2012

Phyllis McLean passed away on Monday, April 9 at 11 a.m. at Verdugo Vista Health Care Center in La Crescenta. Although she had suffered with dementia for the past five years, her death came quickly and peacefully. Her family had the opportunity to be by her side, to comfort her and to tell her that they loved her very much. Her memory loss, although severe, had slowed; she still remembered close family members, and stories of her early years still entertained her.

Phyllis Clary Heine was born on 25 May 1930 in White Plains, N.Y. Her family moved several times, notably Cannondale, Conn., enduring the Great Hurricane of 1938; Toledo, Ohio during the war; Highland Park and Fox Lake, Ill. for high school; and finally settling in suburban Detroit, Mich. where she graduated from Wayne State University in 1952 with a BA in Art Education. She was a member of the Zeta Chi sorority.

On Feb. 26 1953 she married Thomas Nicol McLean of Detroit and they settled in suburban Detroit, living since 1959 on an idyllic two-and-a-half acre property that became Phyllis’ gardening and landscaping pride and joy.

By the mid-1960s, Phyllis became a very active volunteer in her community. For 30 years, she was a docent at the Detroit Institute of Arts, twice chairing the Docent Committee. By the 1970s, she was also active with the Cranbrook Gardens Auxiliary, volunteering not only as a garden docent but as a gardener as well. She was instrumental in the development of the Cranbrook Gardens annual spring and fall plant sales. In 1979 Phyllis received the prestigious Heart of Gold award from the United Way Community Services for her many years of outstanding volunteer service.

Phyllis’ artistic side was always finding an outlet, notably in her hand silk screened Christmas cards and posters announcing Oakland University choral programs. Julia Child was her culinary inspiration and Phyllis’ passion for cooking manifested itself most notably with her amazing selection of homemade Christmas cookies, packed in large tins (most likely Hills Bros. coffee tins). As the years went by, recipients of Phyllis’ cookies not only expected them, they demanded them.

After her first DIA docent trip, Phyllis was hooked on travel; she hardly missed a single docent trip which gave her an opportunity to visit many of the major art centers, both in the United States and abroad. When, in 2003, her daughter Catherine called her on Mother’s Day and asked, “Would you like to go with Sylvana and me to Paris?” Phyllis couldn’t say yes fast enough.

Phyllis always maintained a cheerful demeanor, even when times were difficult. In 1999, she survived a serious heart attack that left her legally blind. She remained optimistic, shifting her interests from the visual arts to season tickets to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Phyllis is survived by her two siblings, George Freeman Heine of Madison, Wis., and Maude Scolaro of Green Valley, Ariz. She is also survived by her two daughters, Catherine Clary McLean of Los Angeles and Laura Morrison of La Crescenta, and two grandchildren, Sylvana Elektra McLean, a student at Pasadena City College, and Scott Franklin Morrison, who graduates this year from UCLA.

At Phyllis’ request cremation has taken place. In doing so, she will join her husband Tom, who pre-deceased her, in the beautiful columbarium at St. James Episcopal Church, Birmingham, Mich.

Phyllis lived a full and meaningful life, and contributed enormously to the happiness of many others. We will all miss Phyllis.

Crippen Mortuary Directors