Phyllis Cheryl Salisbury Casavant, 69, of Signal Mountain died on Wednesday, December 25, 2019.
Phyllis was born on September 6, 1950, to James O. Salisbury and Helen Audrey Salisbury of Signal Mountain. The beloved baby of the family, she, like her two older sisters, attended Girls Preparatory School. She received a Bachelor of Arts in 1972 and a M.Ed.in 1974 from Duke University. She spent several years teaching special education in North Carolina before continuing her studies at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After receiving her Ed.D. in 1985, she returned to Chattanooga where she became the Executive Director of FACES, the National Craniofacial Association. She then served as the Director of Development at the Moccasin Bend Girl Scout Council before becoming Director of the Southeast Tennessee Area Agency on Aging, a position she held from 1991 to 2004. As director, she was instrumental in developing the local delivery system of increased home service to older individuals and managed the regional Ryan White CARE consortium. In 2004, she became the Deputy Director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District where she was directly responsible for a staff of ninety-five.
A passionate advocate for the difference government programs could make in the lives of the people of Tennessee, Phyllis served as a board member for a wide range of organizations, including the Chattanooga Homeless Coalition and the Hamilton County Regional Health Council. During her career, she particularly enjoyed mentoring younger professionals and often maintained close friendships with former staff members. After retiring in 2011, Phyllis continued working with causes that mattered to her, including combating homelessness in downtown Chattanooga and helping care for those living with HIV/AIDS. She also became quite a talented quilter, much to the delight of her family, who have not been cold since. An avid reader, she never found a book she wanted to put down: her great loves included everything from the Aeneid to Ann Rule.
She loved live music and regularly traveled for shows. Highlights of the many concerts she attended with her husband of 43 years, Walter Edward Casavant, included Arlo Guthrie at the original Alice's Restaurant, Pete Seeger's 90th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden, and Leonard Cohen in concert in both Asheville and Louisville. Her life’s work was taking care of people, and her kindness was repaid at the end of her life, when an entire city of people rallied around her to honor how much she had meant to them and her community through the years. With the constant support, love and cheer of her network of friends, her last few years, while difficult, were some of the most meaningful of her life.
She is preceded in death by her parents and her husband.
She is survived by son, James Edward Casavant of Chattanooga; daughter, Mary Anderson Casavant and her husband Scott R. Wilson of New York City, and grandchildren, Beatrice Helen Wilson and Hugo Scott Wilson; sister, Barbara Salisbury of Signal Mountain and sister, Camille Jungman and her husband Robert Jungman, of Minneapolis; and nephew Robert Jungman Jr. (Jessemy) of Minneapolis, and great niece Elizabeth; her companion Rev. Harry L. Howard; and the siblings of her late husband and their respective spouses and children and grandchildren, all of whom Phyllis treasured.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Phyllis’s memory to the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition (https://www.homelesscoalition.org) and Chattanooga CARES (https://chattanoogacares.kindful.com).
Funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31, at First Baptist Church with Rev. Thomas Quisenberry officiating. The family will receive friends at the church from 4-7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 30, and from 10-11 a.m. Tuesday.
Please visit www.heritagechattanooga.com to share words of comfort.
Arrangements are by Heritage Funeral Home, 7454 East Brainerd Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421.
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