Obituary For Phyllis Dyer Stickels

January 23, 1929 - January 9, 2020

Surrounded by family singing her favorite hymns, Phyllis Dyer (Cheek) Stickels left this world to join the heavenly chorus on January 9, 2020. She was a loving, devoted mother and wife, an adoring “Grandmommie,” and a woman of great faith and generosity. She always had a song in her heart and it was her great joy to share that music with others.


Her funeral service will be held at the Leaksville United Methodist Church on Sunday, January 12 at 3pm. Visitation with the family will be Saturday, January 11 from 5-7pm at the Fair Funeral Home, and at other times at the home of Susan and Bill Pace, 212 W. Harris Place. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Leaksville United Methodist Church Chancel Choir or to Hospice of Rockingham County. 


Phyllis was born on January 23, 1929 to John Bullard Dyer and Alice Joyce Dyer in Leaksville (now Eden), NC. The second oldest of ten children, life in the Dyer home was bustling, and from an early age Phyllis learned to care for others and contribute to her community. To keep his children busy, her father built a tennis court in the backyard where many a game was played. An avid tennis player until the age of 82, Phyllis displayed her healthy competitive spirit on the court for many years. 


From an early age, Phyllis showed a gift for music. After graduating as the valedictorian of Leaksville High School class of 1947, she attended Flora MacDonald College in Red Springs, NC. While there, she made lifelong friends and served as the president of the student body. She also played on the basketball and volleyball teams, graduating with a degree in music, with an emphasis on voice. 


While at school she remained devoted to her first love, a hometown boy and husband-to-be, Norwood Janney Cheek. Together, they were a fetching couple, and her dance cards from the many socials they attended bear witness to a deep affection: she filled each with his name alone. The couple married in 1951, set up a home in Leaksville, and soon had the three “sweet Cheeks,” their daughters Ann, Susan, and Phyllis. A baby boy, Chip, would later join them. 


Phyllis loved her lifelong career as a voice teacher, teaching hundreds of students‑youth and adults‑how to sing. She was a patient and kind teacher, encouraging excellence from her students and building their confidence with her assurance. Her gift for teaching and love for children led her to become a preschool teacher at the Leaksville United Methodist Church, where she lovingly served as a teacher and director of the preschool for 25 years. To the youngsters in her class, she had a song for everything‑from her first greeting of the day to cleanup time. Many of her former students still sing these tunes to their own children and grandchildren.


Phyllis’s devotion to her beloved Leaksville United Methodist Church, extended beyond her work in the preschool; she served first as a member of the choir, then its choir director, and finally as the Director of Music for many years. Many recall her annual Christmas Eve concert, where as a soloist she invoked the majesty of the Messiah’s birth through spirituals such as “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” or “O Holy Night.” She was also asked to sing at many special events and was always delighted to do so, whether it be singing “The Lord’s Prayer,” at weddings or a favorite hymn, such as “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” at a Sunday service.


Along with her service to her church and her family, Phyllis contributed to the larger community as a member of many civic clubs and associations. She was a lifelong member of the Garden Club, and she and her second husband, E.N. “Bud” Stickels, were dedicated members of the Eden Preservation Society, of which Phyllis also served as the president. Together, Phyllis and Bud enjoyed vibrant, busy lives, traveling together to visit family (Paris, California, Texas, Maryland, Ohio), and deeply involved in the institutions they loved: church, family, and community. During these happy years, it was often hard to reach Phyllis by phone‑she was either at church, at a meeting, or out in the yard creating “beauty spots,” in her flower garden. 


Throughout her life, Phyllis made everyone around her feel welcome, loved, and special. Her warmth and enthusiasm were contagious, and she inspired her children and grandchildren by her commitment to family, to grace, and to always seeing the very best in people and life. She often said that she only remembered the good things, and she inspired her children and her grandchildren to raise their young with the same kind of gratitude and affection. She loved nothing more than the “joyful noise” of her grandchildren and great-grands. For these fortunate children, nothing was off limits. A surefire baby whisperer, she spent many hours holding a sleeping babe and singing sweet lullabies. Her life was filled with family, joy, and song, and she brought beautiful music to all of our lives. 


Phyllis is survived by her four children: Ann Fair and husband Neil, of Eden; Susan Pace and husband Bill, of Eden; Phyllis Garrett and husband, Dan of Austin, Texas; and Norwood J. Cheek, Jr. “Chip” and wife, Andrea Richards, of Los Angeles, California. She has three stepchildren, which Phyllis always referred to affectionately as “the northern children,”: Mark Stickels, Kathy Hare and husband, Jim, and Scott Stickels and wife, Liz.


Her grandchildren: Annie Fair and husband, Dean Micetich; Alice Smith and husband, Colin; Ty Pace and wife Torie; Brett Garrett, Phoebe Cheek and Gray Cheek; step-grandchildren Michelle Pace Mullis and husband, Scott; Jay Pace; Alicia Pace Riddle (deceased) and husband, Scott; Christie Garrett Strupe and husband, Mike; Darrell Garrett; and the northern step-grandchildren: Michelle Stickels Lugones, Stacy Stickels McCrary, Sammy Stickels, Zach Hare, Devon Hare, Betsy Stickels, Sally Stickels, and Emily Stickels Kowalyshyn. 


Her great-grandchildren: Felix Fair Micetich, Matlida Fair Micetich, Callaway D. Smith, Penelope Fair Smith, Rachelann Pace, and John Tyler Pace, Jr.; step great-grandchildren, Anna Benson, Ivy Pace, Kinley Pace, Elizabeth Riddle, Katherine Riddle, Ben Riddle, Charlotte Riddle, Garrett Strupe; and the northern step-great grandchildren: Makenzie Stickels McCrary, Miley Stickels McCrary, James Stickels Lagunones, and Tyler Stickels Lagunones.


Her brothers Richard Dyer and wife, Wanda; and Bobby Dyer and wife, Pat (deceased); and her three sisters: Betty Citty and husband, John (deceased); Nell Hubbard and husband, Wayne; and Lynn Dyer. 


In addition to her parents, Phyllis was preceded in death by her husband, E.N. “Bud” Stickels, Jr; three brothers, Johnny, Brewer, and Jimmy Dyer, and one sister, Ann Dyer; step-granddaughter, Alicia Pace Riddle; and the father of her children, Norwood J. Cheek, Sr. 


The family would like to thank the members of Leaksville United Methodist Church, as well as to Hospice of Rockingham County for their enduring support and compassion. Many thanks to the very special individuals who helped care for Phyllis in her final years‑their cheerful and loving care went above and beyond.


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