Phyllis Hatch Frankenfeld, 86, died Tuesday, July 9, 2013, at Hospice House of the Hills in Rapid City after a short and courageous battle with cancer. Her friends and family, joined by compassionate hospice professionals, kept her comfortable and cheerful, trading jokes and stories with her until her final hours. She took to her grave the precious secret of whom among her five sons was her favorite. Yet each son could (and did) claim plausibly that he was the one, because she lavished upon each son her unconditional love, her infinite support, and her unabashed pride, buttressed sometimes by her fierce defense against criticism, whether fair or unfair.
Born Jan. 5, 1927, in McLaughlin, Phyllis was a bold adventuress all of her life. At the age of four, along with some friends and cousins of about the same age, she embarked on a midwinter excursion from McLaughlin to Bullhead 17 miles distant, where her Uncle Kit’s candy counter beckoned. They made it more than five miles before a concerned mailman boarded the children on his horse-drawn sleigh and delivered them back to their frantic parents.
At age five Phyllis ran away to school, only to be turned away again and again until an exasperated principal relented and enrolled her in first grade a year early. Phyllis denied that her father’s position as school board president had anything to do with this possibly illegal age waiver.
In high school, Phyllis worked for E.Y. Berry, owner of the McLaughlin Messenger and later a Congressman. It was Berry who managed to persuade University of South Dakota Registrar H. W. Frankenfeld to admit Phyllis to college in 1944, despite being underage and short a few credits. She quickly made up the credits, and two years later, she met and married the Registrar’s son, Robert Frankenfeld.
After a brief interlude in Chicago, Bob and Phyllis Frankenfeld returned to South Dakota, for Bob to earn his law degree. In 1952, with sons Don and Russ in tow, they moved to Rapid City, where they spent the rest of their lives. Bob worked as a lawyer and Phyllis taught English and coached debate at Rapid City Central High School. Along the way, sons, Charles, Kent and James were added to the brood.
Phyllis loved to travel, with Hawaii a favorite destination. Bob and Phyllis took cruises to Alaska and the Panama Canal. After Bob died in 1994, she made regular trips with friends to the Indian Wells tennis tournament. Later, she traveled with sister Dorothy, son Russell, or others to the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Europe.
A devoted member of Alpha Phi, Phyllis maintained lifelong friendships with her sorority sisters. She was an active member of PEO and many bridge clubs.
She was a founding member and frequent lay reader at St. Andrew’s Episcopal parish, and was proud to see each of her five sons confirmed at St. Andrew’s.
Phyllis was preceded in death by her parents, Scott and Anna Hatch; her brother, Robert Hatch; her husband, Robert Frankenfeld; and her great-grandchild, Amelia Frankenfeld. Surviving are her sister, Dorothy Berry of Spearfish; five sons, Donald (Jean), Rapid City; Russell, Hill City; Chuck (Angelia), McPherson, KS; Kent (Brenda), Ames, IA; James (Kelly), Minnetonka, MN; her eight grandchildren, Lindsay and David; Celeste and Aaron (Shara); Shannon (Nathan) and Adam; and Matthew (Cristina) and Emily. Her three surviving great- grandchildren are Caden, Colin and Addison. Also surviving is her sister-in-law, Patricia Frankenfeld Edberg.
Her five sons reluctantly admit that her real favorite may have been her rambunctious dog Mac, who is a world-class Frisbee player.
Funeral services were Saturday, July 13, at 11 a.m. at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Rapid City.
Inurnment will be in Black Hills National Cemetery at a later date.
A memorial has been established.
Services are under the direction of Osheim & Schmidt Funeral Home in Rapid City.
Her online guestbook is available at www.osheimschmidt.com.