Wife, Mother, Grandmother, and friend extraordinaire, Phyl MacNeill died peacefully with family by her side on March 3, 2023.
Phyl was born in Rosetown Saskatchewan, August 9, 1931, to Hershel Ferguson and Beryl Dickson. She spent her childhood in a variety of teacherages with her one-room schoolhouse teacher mom, and her gentle brother. Jack Pine, Cut Knife Creek, Eagle Butte, Red Deer Lake (Conquest), and Booth (Unwin) were all home for 2-year stints. Beryl remarried in 1944 and the family moved to Fort William where Beryl and Wilf worked at the Canada Car Factory. In 1946 the family settled in Scott Saskatchewan where Wilf work as a Horticulturalist at the Dominion Experimental Farm and Beryl taught.
Always a lover of writing, Phyl was first published in the “Western Producer” as a child. Her weekly contributions earned her the designations of “Master Scribe” and “Laureate”. Phyl graduated from Scott High School in 1948 and, in 1951, from The University of Saskatchewan, with a Bachelor of Arts (English) at the age of 19. While at U. of S., she was the editor of “The Sheaf” and script editor for the University Radio Directorate. Following graduation Phyl continued to write for CKRM, the U. of S., and as an Information Officer at the Legislature in Regina. Phyl was very proud of the work she did for Premier T.C. (Tommy) Douglas, with whom she often ate lunch, writing many of his short speeches and announcements. She had an article published in The Canadian Geographical Journal (now The Canadian Geographic) in May 1960. Phyl was an editor for McClelland and Stewart, and from 1967-69 an editor for the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.
On November 30, 1953 Phyl married Jim MacNeill who was working, at the time, on T.C. Douglas' Economic Advisory and Planning Board. Jim, one of Canada's early environmentalists, went on to an illustrious career as an international public servant. As Jim's work evolved Phyl took on the role of first editor for his speeches and books.
Phyl was an incredible seamstress, cook, gardener and friend. Her dinner parties were legendary, from New Year’s Eve celebrations in Ottawa with the Saskatchewan Mafia, to entertaining heads of state and royalty in Paris and Geneva. She loved badminton, tennis, golf, curling, bird watching, travelling, winning at scrabble, The Blue Jays, the CCF, the Green Party, the NAC, Stratford Festival, Sauvignon Blanc and perogies!
Phyl loved and laughed easily. She was warm, cheerful, generous, and wise. She is survived by her brother Gwynne Ferguson; daughters Catherine (Michael) and Robin; her grandchildren Zack (Sarah), Clark, Farley, William, and Audrey; and her 2 great grand-children Eliana Eve MacNeill and Alfie James MacNeill. She was a special aunt, cousin, friend and mentor to many more. Phyl was predeceased by her husband Jim, son Ward and grandson Aiden.
We, who have known and loved Phyl, are so very lucky. Special thanks to New Edinburgh Square and Dr. Sjaan Gerth for many years of remarkable care.
Friends are invited to Beechwood Cemetery, 280 Beechwood Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario on Friday, May 5, at 9am. A Celebration of Life will begin at 10am with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers please make a donation to an organization that helps make our world a kinder, more beautiful place. Consider dining at the Clocktower McKay as they have lost a loyal and cherished patron.
Condolences with warm memories of Phyl
Elizabeth Julian (McClenahan)
Such a wonderful person and life! May you be comforted by all her teachings and all your memories.
Karoline and Inger Baird
If we had to describe Phyl in one word, it would be energy. She fizzed. She spoke fast, moved quickly and was full of wisdom and ideas. She and Jim made a tremendous team.
She was a warm, kind and thoughtful hostess. I was lucky enough to spend an Easter with Phyl, Jim, Cathy and Robyn when they lived in Paris - such a happy time with memories of Phyl laughing a lot.
I will always remember the amusing and happy times you, Jim, Anthony and I spent together. Thank you!