Virginia June Phillips was born June 7, 1930. The stars fell for Virginia in her youth. We know this because she penned her life story for the family over a decade ago. In the memoir she recounted how, after her mother's death, she was walking to the grocery store at night when thousands of meteors began to rain down from the sky. It was a phenomenon she only witnessed once in her lifetime. "I thought the world was ending," she wrote. The world was not ending that night, but for a twelve-year-old girl who had just been left motherless, the world was altered forever. She would accompany her mother's body by train back to Westville, Oklahoma, where she had deep family roots.
Virginia's memoir is singular in that she focused not on herself but on the joy and passion revealed in her extraordinary lifetime, even in the midst of great struggle. She wrote of the delight she experienced when her family stopped to camp alongside the road as they headed out West in the great Okie migration. Her mother cooked a single pan of fried potatoes for the family. Virginia remembered it to be one of the best dishes she ever tasted.
One of Virginia's greatest gifts was her hospitality. She must have learned this from her folks, as they took in any and all Okie migrants who showed up in California, hungry and dejected. They didn't just feed people at their lowest moments, they celebrated with them, playing the fiddle and dancing into the late hours of the night. Any person who ever entered Virginia's home knows how she welcomed you in with deep affection and served up a cup of coffee or a milkshake, alongside any kind of snack you could dream up. She made magic in her kitchen and she loved to serve people. This is the true nature of a Jesus follower. You recognize yourself to be a servant to the divine beings surrounding you. You love all people as you love yourself, which means you give all people your best. Leftovers are not good enough.
In the realm of service, she took great delight in all little children, and little children were likewise drawn to her like fireflies to the light. The child of her youth continued to thrive in her heart throughout adulthood and children immediately recognized that in her. She spoke to each one as though they were the most important human being on earth, God's greatest miracle. When you speak to people in this way they begin to believe that they matter, too, regardless of their station in life. It is a wonderful, powerful, world-changing gift, and of this, she was a master.
Virginia's laugh was contagious. Anytime the phone rang she picked up the receiver laughing with joy before any words were ever exchanged. It wasn't possible to encounter her presence and not smile, no matter the day or the circumstance. This was just one of her many fruits from the Holy Spirit. Virginia Phillips yielded all the fruit, all the time. Her relationship with Jesus was so intimate, so personal, that she baked a birthday cake for Him every year at Christmas where the family would gather around and sing Happy Birthday to her personal savior. She spoke and sang to Jesus from the time she woke up to the time she went to sleep, in continuous praise and prayer.
No account of Virginia Phillips and her life can be complete without Jiggs Phillips. If anyone ever tells you there is no such thing as love at first sight, just remember this. Virginia and Jiggs first laid eyes on each other in Westville as teenagers and thank God, from the blessed time of that first encounter, the fountain of their unification overflowed, not only on this family, but on this town, this county, the world entire. When she drew her last breath a picture of Jiggs lay on the pillow next to her. It had remained there for the last twenty years since his death. We can't help but believe they are reunited in some way.
It was not lost on us that Virginia was released from this world in the time of the Ring of Fire eclipse.
Johnny Cash wrote, "The taste of love is sweet When hearts like ours meet I fell for you like a child Oh, but the fire went wild"
The love Virginia had for her family and the community was sweet and it spread like wildfire wherever she went - Westville Public Schools, Sunday School, the School Board, her prison ministry - her love could not be contained. It was wildfire. We rejoice.
At Virginia's death, our sweet Rochelle Lewis sang her over to the far bank of the river with "I'll Fly Away". She departed on June 8, 2021, surrounded by her loving family and it had to be thus, as family was her life's greatest ambition. We rejoice, for it is nothing short of a miracle to have been taught how to love from One such as this. We go back out into the world now to show all whom we encounter these mysterious things we have witnessed.
Virginia Phillips was preceded in death by her parents, Frank and Bessie Henderson, her sister Yvonne Walborn, her husband, Harold "Jiggs" Phillips, and her daughter Deana Cooper. She is survived by her beloved sons, Clark and Cheryl Phillips of Westville, Stan and Gail Phillips of Proctor, sons-in-law: Robert Cooper of Wagoner and Jason Lewis Reeves. A host of blessed grandchildren and great-grandchildren shout praises for her and continue to encounter her in their dreams, even in the days after her death. The world has not ended but it is altered forever.
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