Phyllis Ann (Gordon) Elkins
September 11, 1931 – August 18, 2021
A heart stops beating and the connection to the past is gone…
A meek, gentle woman left this earth on August 18, 2021. Phyllis Ann (Gordon) Elkins, 89, was a “late-in-life” baby born on September 11, 1931 to Jewel Vernon Gordon and Nettie Beulah (Saunders) Gordon. Raised in Princeton, CA, she was the first person in her family to be born in a hospital; the original Enloe Hospital in Chico, CA. She was the darling of her mother and dad, and had an idyllic childhood. Her mother doted on her and kept her in curls and dresses when all little girls aspired to be like Shirley Temple. Her dad was a singing cowboy who played guitar and piano, and helped foster a love of music in little Pill, as she was fondly called.
Tragedy struck at ten years old, when she lost her mother unexpectedly. The loss was so profound, that Phyllis lost all memory of her mother and most of her childhood. This event colored the rest of her life and the choices she made from then on. Photos capture the sadness in her eyes. Her schoolwork suffered, though she was an exceptionally bright young woman. Horses were her passion, and every day after school she could be found racing around on her beloved Trixie, a black Morgan mare, or swimming in the Sacramento River and the irrigation canals that surrounded the farming community. Report cards reflect that her grades could have been better if her attendance wasn’t so spotty. Her relationship with her stepmother was less than ideal, so at the age of 17 she opted to leave home and begin a 70-year marriage to Richard Elkins of Colusa, CA.
Five children followed; each one as loved and well-cared for as the one before. All five were raised in a musical household, as Phyllis continued to sing at various functions and perform in community theater in Colusa. While Richard worked at I.G. Zumwalt or Hoblit Motors, Phyllis took seasonal jobs at JC Penney, Davison’s Drugs, or the prune plant to boost the family’s income. When Richard took a job at CalTrans and moved the family to Truckee in 1966, she worked at Truckee Elementary as a teacher’s aide, and at Builder’s Service Center doing secretarial work. She also managed to find time to be Assistant Mother Advisor for her three daughters who were in the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls.
Retirement took them back to Colusa, and she had time to embark on a number of hobbies. What she discovered was that she excelled at everything she tried! Her yard became a showplace, with her massive green lawns and English Gardens. She took up quilting in her 60s and took first place with her very first quilt at the Colusa County Fair, and then went on to place 4th at the California State Fair. She had no oil painting instruction, yet painted an exact likeness of her grandchildren on 20″ x 24″ canvas. She learned Spanish. She took ceramics classes. Though she was not particularly fond of cooking, she loved hosting big celebrations and meals for her family at every occasion. Baking goodies however, was her forte. Her lemon meringue pie and rum cake are the stuff of legend, as are her sugar cookies.
And she could laugh – oh could she laugh at herself! To know Phyllis was to know joy in the simplest of things. She was never the center of attention, yet she had a presence that couldn’t escape notice. She was simply…. quietly…. always there. Remarkably unremarkable. She was a very pretty woman, but not glamorous. Her Irish heritage showed in her raven hair, dark eyes and freckles. She possessed more of a healthy, girl-next-door good looks, but there was something about her that made you believe she was the most beautiful woman in the room. Yet the sadness in her eyes persisted.
She loved Disneyland and all things Disney. She made her last trip to The Happiest Place on Earth at the age of 85 to celebrate her birthday. She simply never tired of it. Her other passion was saving animals, so if you wish to make a donation to your local animal shelter, she would most certainly have loved that.
She is survived by her children Rich Elkins (Jennifer) of Yuba City, CA, Bob Elkins (Karla) of Truckee, CA, Anne Pinkerton (Bob) of Reno, NV, Lisa Wilsey of Rohnert Park, CA and Marily Elkins of Reno, NV; grandchildren Michael Elkins, James Elkins (Meredith), Joey Pinkerton (Sara), Mary Pinkerton (Russell Jones), Gibson Elkins, Christopher Wilsey and Annaka Elkins; great-grandchildren Catlyn, Devin, Jordyn, Mikee, Sam and Eily; great-great-granddaughter Kaylee, and “just like family” Doris Lucchesi, as well as her beloved cousins, nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, mother and father, brothers Milt and Bill Gordon, sister Peggy Bach and son-in-law Michael Wilsey.
The family wishes to thank the wonderful people at Circle of Life hospice for the care they gave to Mom AND to us. A special thank you goes to Ludi and Donna, who offered exemplary love and care, and showed us how to respect the end-of-life process. As our friend Karron said, we “loved her right out of this world!”
The only solace to be found in the loss of this beautiful, fascinating, complicated woman is knowing that her heart no longer aches to be with those she loved so deeply. Now it is we, her orphans who must endure the sadness of loss.
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