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Home » Campus News Latest » Obituaries » Phyllis A. Stevens ’54

Phyllis Anna Bayley Whiting Stevens passed away peacefully at home on November 6, 2020, at the age of 89.

Phyllis was born in Washington DC, was raised in Detroit , Michigan, and spent much of her life in the “East Village” of New York City before moving to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Her parents, Carle and Maybelle Stevens (nee Whiting) were both graphic artists. During the Depression years, her parents lived on a houseboat on the Mississippi River and were close to her fathers family, George and Dolly Stevens (both deceased) in Arkansas.

During her Detroit years, Phyllis was very active in the civil rights movement.

Phyllis attended Antioch College in Ohio where she pursued her interests in the arts and met and married Herbert J. Fisher ’55. They traveled and camped across the country, landing in California as some of the first “Bohemians” of the time.

After their daughter Karen was born, Phyllis and her daughter moved to the East Village of New York where she spent most of her adult life.

She worked professionally as a graphic designer in the book publishing and advertising industries.

Throughout her life, she pursued many artistic disciplines: puppeteering, plexiglass art, off-off Broadway theater production, oil painting, diorama sculptures, tapestry weaving. In the East and Greenwich Villages she found her home among artists, dancers, musicians, poets and the LGBTQ community. Phyllis was a long-time member of the Salmagundi Art Club near Washington Square Park in New York.

Phyllis purchased a 150+ year old brownstone home on Tenth Street where she and her daughter lived for decades. She was adept with tools and designed, built, and repaired all manner of things that such an older building might need. She was the first in her neighborhood to create a rooftop garden which became an oasis for all who visited. She had her art studio in her home where she created and worked.

She was an adventurer, preferring less-traveled, more rustic places around the world. She loved and rendered the landscapes around Abiquiu, New Mexico, in oil paintings and tapestries. She was an avid white-water rafter, organized and guided canoe trips, and was a scuba diver.

Phyllis moved to Chapel Hill in 2003 to be near her daughter, son in-law, and grandchildren. She continued to create art and found a special welcome among the members of the Triangle Weavers Guild and a local Plein Air painting group. She was painting up to a month before her death. Her love of the natural world is evidenced in her artwork which can be seen on her website:

Phyllis is survived by her long-time partner Joyce Farro, of Chapel Hill, her daughter, Karen Stevens Fisher and husband, Robert Warren of Chapel Hill, her grandchildren, Taylor C. Johnson of Asheville, Katherine E. Johnson of Raleigh, her sister-in-law, Mary Hodges Stevens of Ann Arbor, MI, and her nephews David O. Stevens of Ann Arbor, Jacob Stevens Corvidae of Washington DC, and niece Cassandra E. Merriweather of Ann Arbor MI, their spouses and their growing families of grand nephew and nieces.

She was predeceased by her husband, Herbert J. Fisher ’55, and her younger brother, Fredrick W. Stevens ’59.

The family wishes to thank her devoted caregivers and the strong support system that helped her be at home surrounded by her loved ones and art supplies. There was small family service at Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, NC on November 18, 2020.