Phyllis E. McLeod

Phyllis Elaine McLeod, age 88, of Detroit Lakes, MN, passed away December 26, 2020 of complications related to Alzheimer’s Disease. Phyllis was born to Parnell and Evelyn Smeby in Fargo, ND on March 17, 1932. She attended Oak Grove Lutheran High School where she became an accomplished pianist and graduated at the age of seventeen with the class of 1949. She graduated from Moorhead State (Teachers College) University in 1950 with an Associate Degree in Education, later returning in 1972 to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. Phyllis started her teaching career in Detroit Lakes where she met Elton “Sonny” McLeod. They were married in Hickson, ND on August 17, 1952. They lived in Hibbing, MN for a few years before settling in Detroit Lakes to raise their family. Phyllis enjoyed a long career in teaching and assumed she would put her career on hold when she and Sonny started their family, but each time she tried to quit, the school would ask her to come back and she would. Phyllis taught in Detroit Lakes, White Earth, and Waubun, and in every grade except first. She spent most of her years teaching third grade which was her favorite. She retired in 1997 after more than thirty-five years in the profession. Phyllis was a proud member of the Alpha Delta Kappa (ADK) International Honorary Sorority for Women Educators and supported TeacHaiti, an organization whose mission is to bring children out of poverty through education.

Phyllis humbly dedicated her life to volunteerism and service to her community and church. Her volunteer work, which was varied and extensive, included countless hours with the Ecumen/Emmanuel community as well as ADK community service projects and work at the Historic Holmes Theatre. Together, she and Sonny volunteered with Mission Jamaica, Lutheran Association of Missionary Pilots, the Iditarod sled dog race, and the Minnesota DNR Loon Monitoring Program. Phyllis was a charter member of Grace Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes where she was the organist for over forty years, taught Sunday School, and tirelessly served the church in many other ways. She played the piano daily whether it was to practice for church services, perform at special music events, or accompany soloists and other musicians in a multitude of venues throughout the community.

Phyllis and Sonny enjoyed traveling together. Their adventures took them to every US state and national park, every Canadian province and national park, as well as Australia, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico, and even the Arctic Circle. Phyllis was an avid reader. Her other interests included camping, canoeing, and both downhill and cross-country skiing. She participated in several bowling leagues over many years, was a devoted walker, and rode her bicycle daily during the summer months.

Phyllis was preceded in death by her husband of fifty-five years, Elton “Sonny” McLeod, and her sister Marilyn “Sis” (Smeby) Smith.

Phyllis is survived by her sons Brian (Verlene), Mitchell (Sheila), and Joel “Tater” (Lisa) all of Detroit Lakes; daughters Brenda (Dean) Kurtti of Maple Grove, MN and Rhonda (Joel) Heinen of Castle Rock, CO; grandchildren Matthew (Cary) McLeod, Brett McLeod, Connor (Lexi) McLeod, Austin Kurtti, Aaron Kurtti, Kirk McLeod, Chynna Rae Heinen, Kai McLeod, Chase Heinen, Rena McLeod, Tony McLeod, and Jordan McLeod; step-grandchildren Taylor, Luke, and Jake Morgan; and great-grandchildren Aubrielle, Emily, Katie, and Alaina. She will be greatly missed by cousins, nieces, extended family, and many friends.

The family would like to thank the staff and volunteers at Ecumen Memory Care and Hospice of the Red River Valley for the care given and kindness shown to mom. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association, Ecumen Auxiliary, Hospice of the Red River Valley, or charity of your choice. Cards may be directed to West-Kjos Funeral Home, 900 Summit Avenue, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501. Due to continuing COVID-19 concerns, funeral services will be held at a later date.

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