School 31

Phyllis Maxine (Wise) Kurtz

March 17, 1926 ~ November 14, 2020 (age 94)


Phyllis M. Kurtz, 94, died on November 14, 2020, at home in her sunroom, surrounded by her plants, family photos, bird song, daughter, Janet, and dear friends who saw her through that night.

Phyllis was born in Dakota, IL, on March 17, 1926 to Mary Edith (Barr) and Ford E. Wise. She grew up on a farm outside of Dakota with her brother, Keith, and sister, Beulah. She attended a rural one-room school before going to Dakota Community High School followed by Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA. In 1966, she received her degree at UW-EC.

On June 9, 1948, she married Donald W. Kurtz at the Dakota Presbyterian Church with her uncle, Dr. Floyd W. Barr, officiating. The couple moved to Naperville, IL where she began her life-long career as an elementary teacher, including three decades in Eau Claire, WI. She was aghast when it looked like cursive writing would no longer be taught! After her retirement, she embraced teaching English to the Hmong. Welcoming the stranger, learning about other cultures, and travel abroad were part of her life-long learning. Professionally, she belonged to the Alpha Delta Kappa (ADK) teacher sorority and Eau Claire Area Retired Educators Association.

In 1957, Phyllis and Donald moved their two children, Janet and Steven, from Three Lakes, WI, where they had been building the family cabin, to Eau Claire. There, Don became the Youth Pastor at the First Congregational Church and Phyllis became active in the Senior Choir, teaching Sunday school, Altar Guild, Kindred Spirits Book group, funded the establishment of the Creation Justice program, and tirelessly promoted environmental, peace and justice initiatives.

This year, Phyllis faced the “new normal” by learning how to Zoom on her new tablet, allowing her to continue her chair yoga class, stream church services, attend Webinars and cheat on crosswords. She set up a table with flowers in her “Garage Café” and served rhubarb slush with appropriate distancing. Friends stopped by to discuss books, rant about politics, and at the end, to ponder the meaning of life. Her last week was spent writing “Legacy” letters to her beloved grandson, Greg, and his family, before sending out her final charitable donations.

In lieu of flowers, your memorial donations could be directed to: Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, 1320 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire, 54701; Beaver Creek Reserve – Wise Nature Center at S1 County Hwy K, Fall Creek, WI 54742; First Congregational Church, UCC or the church of your choice.

Deep gratitude to Tom of Mayo Clinic Hospice and all on that team for providing solace and patience along with medications. Unending thanks to those who generously gave their time, food, musical talents, books, and presence up until the very last.

Phyllis is survived by her daughter, Janet Kurtz and her husband, Robert Morgan; her grandson, Greg Doth, and Greg’s family, wife Cindy (Johnson) and their children, Ella and James. She was preceded in death by her husband, Donald; her son, Steven; her parents; and siblings.

No services will be held at this time. Plans for a Celebration of Life in Eau Claire and the interment at Dakota Cemetery, Dakota, IL are pending into summer, 2021. Lenmark-Gomsrud-Linn Funeral & Cremation Services is serving her family. For online condolences, please visit

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