Genelle T. Phillips, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, educator and “life-long learner,” was born on February 8, 1934 in Spartanburg, SC, the daughter of Anthony E. Tolliver, Sr., and Clara Glenn Tolliver. She died on May 12, 2021 in Cary, NC surrounded by her family, after a brief illness. Genelle was a woman of deep faith, with a lifetime of care and devotion to her family, friends, church, community, and students. She had a zest for life, and her spirited, strong, “feisty,” and determined personality left an indelible legacy for all who knew her.
Genelle spent her earlier years in Spartanburg and graduated from Carver High School. She attended Morgan State College in Baltimore, MD but returned home during her freshman year to care for her ailing mother.
Genelle met and married her husband, Charles (“Phil”, deceased) while he was stationed at Donaldson Air Force Base in Greenville, SC. Their marriage was a partnership that focused on rearing their children, faith, education, and travel. In South Carolina, Genelle was active in local political life and voter registration drives, setting an example and a commitment to lifetime voting and social justice. Genelle was an educator and enjoyed spending time in libraries, and enrolling her children and herself in classes, and community programs.
As a military spouse, Genelle traveled and lived with her family in France and Florida. She and her children returned home to Spartanburg whenever Phil was stationed at far away military bases. In 1971, the family relocated from Spartanburg to Seattle, where Genelle returned to school to complete her, receiving a B.A. degree at the University of Washington in Society and Justice. During her long and rewarding career in education, Genelle taught at Wilson and Whitman middle schools, and Nathan Hale, Cleveland, and Franklin high schools. She encouraged others to pursue the teaching profession and formed lifelong friendships with many of her fellow educators.
Genelle and her family attended Epiphany Parish in Spartanburg and upon relocating to Seattle, she was a faithful and involved 46-year member of Epiphany Parish of Seattle (Episcopal), including serving on the Vestry. She established an active life in Seattle and was a UW Husky fan, actively supporting Seattle’s sports teams, and traveled to Pasadena, CA for three Rose Bowls with her family.
Genelle enjoyed gathering with her daughter, Eleanor, and extended family and friends for barbecues, birthday celebrations, and Seahawks games with the Nelson family, including the Super Bowl win and viewing party. She loved attending local festivals, community events, meals out, especially at restaurants on Seattle’s waterfront, gardening and arranging flowers, friendships with her neighbors or simply taking in the beauty of Seattle.
Genelle was an active member of the Cosmopolitan Century Club (the 3 Cs), with its mission to award scholarships to college bound students, which was very important to her. She enjoyed hosting dinner planning meetings for the group. Genelle was active in the Seattle Alliance of Black School Educators, with memberships in The Links and NAACP.
Genelle made several cross-country road trips with her family, visiting friends along the way, and was also an avid world traveler. She lived several years on the Air Force base in France and traveled with her family to visit many countries in Europe. Genelle’s trips to Spain, Thailand, Tanzania, Israel, Egypt, Jamaica, Barbados were some of her favorites and she enjoyed several cruises and trips to the Caribbean.
Among Genelle’s (and Phil’s) favorite travels were to the East Coast and New York City for extended visits with Lyndelle. She attended Lyndelle’s home parish, Church of the Good Shepherd (Episcopal) in New York and was welcomed and will be missed by everyone in the church. During her stays in New York, Genelle enjoyed their many outings, meals at New York’s finest restaurants, spending time at the library, visiting museums, exercise classes, or simply taking in all the action of the City. Genelle and Lyndelle also spent special times attending Broadway productions and musicals, the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, family holiday meals and visits with extended family to nearby areas.
In September 2018, Genelle relocated from Seattle to Cary, NC, where she spent significant, quality time with her daughter, Andrea. Andrea and Genelle attended church services and special celebrations at Andrea’s home parish, Church of the Holy Family (Episcopal) in Chapel Hill, where she made friends and was welcomed by everyone in the church. Among her many activities with Andrea in the Raleigh-Durham area, Genelle attended concerts at the Raleigh Symphony, NC State Fair, Duke Gardens, and local street festivals.
“Miss Genelle,” as she was fondly called by her caregivers, was a special resident at Woodland Terrace Senior Living Community in Cary, where she lived up until her death on May 12, 2021. In the community, Genelle loved spending time picking flowers in the lovely courtyard, arts and crafts, games, music, entertainment provided for the residents, and her visits with family and friends.
On Mother’s Day, three days prior to her death, Genelle strolled around the beautiful pond at Woodland Terrace, with Lyndelle and Andrea, singing gospel hymns. She will be sorely missed by her NC family and the many friends with whom she became acquainted while living in North Carolina.
Genelle’s life was characterized by a love for her family, friends, her strong faith, church involvement, her career as an educator, her civic engagement, and she was known for her beautiful soprano singing voice. She had a friendly, outgoing, and welcoming spirit. Genelle always pulled for “the underdog,” and she set an example of acceptance and love for everyone.
Genelle was preceded in death by her husband Charles, grandson Anthony Welch, her brother Anthony Tolliver, and her nephew Tyrone Tolliver. Genelle leaves to mourn her children, Lyndelle Phillips (partner Nino), Andrea Phillips, Eleanor Nelson (Jackie, deceased), and Supee Phillips (Tasha). Referred to fondly as “Momma Nelle,” or “Nelle” by her grandchildren, Charles Welch (Nandi), Cary Welch (Taylor), Darren Nelson, Monica Nelson, and Nicholas Phillips and great grandchildren, Cary Welch, Jr. (“Philip”), Cameron Welch, Annabelle Welch, Chelsea Welch, and Caylyn Welch, her special nieces, Eleanor Butler Thomas and Gloria Tolliver and a host of nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, extended family members and her cherished friends.
A memorial service for Genelle will be held on Friday, July 16, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. at Epiphany Parish of Seattle, located at 1805 38th Ave., Seattle.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Genelle Tolliver (Tolliver) Phillips, please visit our floral store.