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Local News

Local resident Merle Phillips dies at age 111

Phillips was inspiration to fellow residents at Belmont Village Senior Living in Carol Stream

Former Wheaton resident Merle Phillips is being remembered for her constant energy that belied the fact she turned 111 in April.

"I think in many ways she represented, for residents and staff at Belmont Village Senior Living, everything that people wished to be," Belmont Village Executive Director Jeanne Hansen said. "She had this really strong urge to eat healthy, and she exercised every day."

Phillips, a resident of Belmont Village in Carol Stream since 2014, died Aug. 18. Services for Phillips will be Aug. 25 at One Church Wheaton, 1300 S. President St., Wheaton. Visitation will be from 9 to 10 a.m., followed by a service at 10 a.m.

She will be buried in Glendale Cemetery in LeClaire, Iowa, beside her husband. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Feed My Starving Children, 555 Exchange Court, Aurora, IL 60504, The Salvation Army or One Church Wheaton, 1300 S. President St., Wheaton, IL 60189.

Phillips would ride a recumbent bike every day for exercise.

"She rode the bike every day for 45 minutes and even rode the bike the Monday before her death," Hansen said.

Phillips was born April 2, 1907. She moved to Belmont Village after living in Wheaton for 58 years in the same house. Her husband, Leonard, died of leukemia after a 31-year marriage.

A butterfly garden was created at Cosley Zoo in Wheaton in his memory. Phillips had said he loved collecting butterflies.

Phillips also was committed to her faith, Hansen said.

"She truly lived to honor God by serving others," she said. "She always thought about how to make someone's life better."

For example, when she turned 110 in April 2017, instead of asking for gifts, Phillips asked for donations to Spectrios Institute for Low Vision, an organization in Wheaton that helps adults and children with visual loss regardless of income. She was inspired to do so after having cataract surgery in 2016.

"After having that surgery, it literally opened her eyes to a whole new world," Hansen said. "She got an iPad, which she then learned to use. Her friend put the Bible on that for her, and that's how she did her Bible study."

Phillips wrote 11 books that contained stories of her life experiences. Longtime friend Linda DuBose, who also was in charge of family affairs for Phillips, said she was "one of a kind."

"She was stubborn, determined and wanted to see other people happy and living a good life for Jesus," DuBose said. "That's how I see her."

They both attended One Church Wheaton.

Phillips also was an inspiration to other people, DuBose said, especially to the other residents at Belmont Village.

"I think she encouraged all of the residents at Belmont to get up and get moving," she said. "She didn't watch TV. She thought that was a huge waste of time. I think people were just amazed at how fast she was in her walker. They called her 'speedy' there. She definitely gave them inspiration."

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