Obituary for Phyllis Alberta Staples

   Life Stories | Posted on July 16, 2019

Phyllis Alberta Staples, 95, of Berrien Springs, died Sunday, July 14, 2019, at the Hanson Hospice Center in Stevensville, Michigan.

Phyllis was born April 23, 1924, to Bert and Alta (Bartshe) Ingle in Durban, South Africa. A gifted pianist, she played a Beethoven piano concerto with the Durban Symphony Orchestra as a young teenager. Phyllis completed high school at Helderberg College in Somerset West, Cape, where she went on to teach piano. She received a licentiate of music from the Royal College of London.

Phyllis first met her husband, Russell Staples, as a child. They were reacquainted at Helderberg, where he was studying theology. After their marriage in Durban on December 18, 1947, the couple moved to Cape Town, South Africa, where their two daughters were born.

In 1954, the family traveled to the United States, where Russell continued his studies while Phyllis worked for a philanthropic organization in Washington D.C. They returned to Africa in 1957, to Solusi College in what is now Zimbabwe. When Russell became president of the college, Phyllis served as his secretary, piano teacher, choir director, and frequent host to visitors from all over the world.

When the family immigrated to the U.S. for Russell to pursue a doctorate at Princeton Theological Seminary, Phyllis worked as executive secretary for the New Jersey Bankers Association. Phyllis and Russell settled in Berrien Springs, Michigan, in 1971. While Russell taught in the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Phyllis worked as secretary to the director of Berrien RESA until her retirement. The house that they built on Lake Chapin in 1976 has been host to tea time for guests, colleagues and friends new and old. Patrons of the Howard Performing Arts Center will remember Phyllis’s dedicated volunteer work as a greeter.

Phyllis is survived by her husband, Russell; their daughters: Jillian (John) Hamer of Maplewood, New Jersey, and Dianne Staples of Berrien Springs; grandchildren: Jefferson Hamer of Brooklyn, New York, Patrick (Krista) Hamer of New York, New York, Caitlin (Jordan) Garrett of Berrien Springs, Isabel Stafford of Providence, Rhode Island; five great-grandchildren; and many other members of her extended family.

Phyllis was preceded in death by her parents and older sister, Jean Haupt.

Phyllis will be remembered for her hospitality, faith, and love of the arts; but above all, we will remember Phyllis for her kindness.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday, July 18, at the Seminary Chapel on the campus of Andrews University, Berrien Springs, with Pastor Dwight K. Nelson of Pioneer Memorial Church officiating. Burial will be in Rose Hill Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the Andrews University Department of Music. Online messages and memories may be shared at