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Still making ‘Mounds of Memories’

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Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

If you think of love as a feeling that just happens — that requires no conscious effort — you weren’t influenced by Maggie Phillips.

Phillips has been nurturing love in others, using her own love to help others, and celebrating love where she sees it for a very long time.

“I’ve seen so many families that are separated,” she said. “I couldn’t see how they could do that. I was busy with all my kids, trying to keep up with the things that they were in. I don’t think I missed any of their events. My girls like to get together. They’ve invited me on their excursions, and I’ve told them they needed time without me.”

Born in Oklahoma, Phillips’ family moved first to Clovis when she was 8 years old, and later to Roswell. Her first years in New Mexico were challenging.

“I had cancer when I was just 8 years old,” she said. “It was Sarcoma. It was in the bone, so they removed the bone completely.”

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She took treatment in St. Louis Missouri.

“Mother took me on the train the first time,” she said. “I went by myself the next time. I was so brave.”

Phillips was an energetic child who didn’t let her challenges stop her from much of anything.

“I was in a wheelchair,” she said. “I went down a ramp and turned it over. I had a cast on so I didn’t hurt myself. Then I worked a long time to get up on crutches. I jumped over a little wall and the crutches didn’t go with me. I thought I was going to have to spend the rest of my life in bed because every time I broke the rules, I was put back to bed.”

After more than 80 years, the cancer returned.

“About four years ago I got Sarcoma again,” she said. “It’s been pretty bad this time. That seems so strange that it came back more than 80 years later.”

When Phillips was in high school, she accidentally saved a picture of her future husband.

“I cut a picture out of the paper,” she said, “of one of the guys that was on our basketball team, and stuck it in my scrapbook. After Joe and I had been married about seven years, I learned that Joe was in that picture. He went to Carrizozo High School, the picture was of all-state winners.”

Joe, died recently, after 75 years of marriage. Her five children have organized a plan so that a different family member can be with her at all times, keeping her safely independent in her own home.

“I can’t be left alone because I might fall,” she said. “They keep reminding me that I might try to jump another ramp like I did when I was a girl.”

Phillips is proud of all of her children.

“I wanted my children to be different from each other. I let them be themselves. I wanted them to choose what they wanted to do. They all graduated and they all went to college.

“Claudia got married right out of school. Ronnie was going to be a teacher or a basketball coach. He started out doing that but he went into business with Joe. Joanne was the little Tom-Boy. Thirteen months younger than Ronnie, she tried to do everything that he did. Rissie was a ballerina. She did acrobatics. Then we had Meg, she’s our baby. She’s got a beautiful voice.

“I made all of them take piano and I wanted all of them to do dancing, but I had a little opposition from Joanne and Ronnie. I made Ronnie take Ballroom dancing. I never would let them stop anything — once they started, they had to finish it.”

There is a 20-year difference between the five children.

“We’ve got 11 grands, 28 greats, and one great-great. We are a big family.”

Phillips has always been active in Roswell.

“I want people to know how wonderful Roswell is,” she said. “Roswell is really a beautiful city and I’m so proud that I get to live here.

“This lady said that she wanted me to be in a program because I don’t work. It backed me up. I thought, ‘I don’t work?’ I was in the Valley View Extension club. I did that for 20 years. I was in Story League. I was director of the Junior Story League. I was in La Sertoma. When I was in a club, I usually stuck it out for 20 years at least.”

She was in Eva MacCallum’s writing class for a time, and she wrote a book about her life, called “Mounds of Memories.”

“I wrote my book when I was about 85,” she said. “The kids kept giving me books to fill out. And I said ‘I could write a book before I could fill out all of these books one at a time.’ I wrote it long-hand and then Rissie typed it up for me.”

Phillips’ daughter Rissie said her mother is a lifelong learner who instilled that in her children. Culture and arts were important to her. Phillips grew up wanting to be a teacher. She found her satisfaction in teaching Sunday School and creating Kindergarten for her children. She has supported the Cowboy Bell scholarship all her life.

When she was in high school, Phillips worked for Bullock’s Jewelry. She still speaks fondly of the Bullock family. Now she spends much of her time reading and catching up on all the naps she couldn’t take while raising children.

“I read all the time,” she said. “I had missed that while raising my children.

When Ronnie was young I used to tell him, ‘It’s time for your nap now,’ and he said to me, ‘Whenever I get big and you get little, I’m gonna make you take naps.’ He’s 6-foot-2 and a half — he did get big and I got little. I do take my naps.”

At 95, four years into her second battle with cancer, and only a few weeks after the death of her husband, Phillips is still actively loving, nurturing and encouraging people in any way she can.

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