Phyllis Buskirk was born in Hollis New York, the daughter of William E. and Amelia (Amy) A. (Tuemmler) Richardson. The younger of two daughters, her family role was peacemaker. When Sunday dinner political disagreements heated up, she was to change the subject or create a diversion. Those lessons on diplomacy served her well the rest of her life. Phyllis graduated from high school at age 16, and attended William Smith College the following fall, earning a B.A. (cum laude) in Economics, with minors in Math and English. On graduation she was initiated into the Zeta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
While at home on winter break she met her future husband Allen V. Buskirk of Bloomington Indiana, a returned Army Captain and graduate student in Physics at Indiana University. After a long-distance courtship by mail, Phyllis fast-tracked her course of study, attending summer school and marrying in the fall. Soon after, she and Allen moved to Bloomington and started a family. When Allen was offered a teaching position at Kalamazoo College, they moved to a “seminar house” on campus, and the family continued to grow.
Phyllis enjoyed the responsibilities of being a mother of four, and a faculty wife. She became involved in local volunteering, serving the public schools, the YWCA, her church, the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. She was a charter member of P.E.O. CN Chapter of Kalamazoo. (Sixty years of active membership.) As her children matured, and started college, Phyllis sought more financially rewarding work. Her employment in 1970 at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research allowed her to grow professionally from Research Assistant to Senior Staff Economist, responsible for the data development for the Business Outlook for Western Michigan quarterly, providing labor market information to businesses, government, and social service organizations. Retiring after 17 years at the Institute, she chose to take on a new challenge as manager of administration & finance at the First Presbyterian Church of Kalamazoo. (PCBAA certified). She was a charter member of the Kalamazoo Network and was active in the establishment of its mentoring program. In various ways, both as a volunteer and through her many years of employment she worked to encourage all individuals and especially women to achieve their full potential. She was always ready with a helping hand and an encouraging word.
Phyllis and Allen were very active in the Kalamazoo Sail & Power Squadron. Al taught piloting, navigation, and weather. With Phyllis as first mate, their combined skills were put to practical use while cruising over 10,000 miles of the Great Lakes in their 30′ Sabre sailboat “Andiamo.” The longest voyage of 64 days included passage through the North Channel of Lake Huron and in Lake Superior.
Her four children Leslie (Bruno Pucci), Bill (Barbara), Carol, who died 2001 (Larry Dault), and Janet (Ben Nieves), nine grandchildren, their spouses, eleven great-grandchildren, extended family, and many friends, are all beneficiaries of her kindness, steadfast loyalty, and positive attitude.
A memorial service was held at the First Presbyterian Church of Kalamazoo on April 29, 2022. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society donate3.cancer.org, YWCA of Kalamazoo ywcakalamazoo.org or the P.E.O. Foundation donations.peointernational.org