Phyllis Madeleine Swackhamer left this world July 18, 2022, for the world beyond, on a bed beneath a favorite tree, overlooking the flower garden she loved so much. Born April 23, 1946, in northwest Missouri, she grew up on a large farm/ranch surrounded by animals, nature and four hardy sisters and a brother. There she experienced the wide-eyed wonders of childhood, and the challenges, pains, excitements, fears, and joys of adolescence. Later she graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in biology, followed by two years volunteering with the Schieffelin Institute of Health-Research and Leprosy Centre in Karigiri, India. She completed a Master’s in Education at the University of Wisconsin in 1980.

Helping young people was Phyllis’ passion. Over the years she served as mentor, friend, confidant, role model and teacher to many. First at Sunburst Youth Homes in Neillsville, Wisconsin, and later as a Resource Consultant and teacher in the Vision Program in Paonia. I wish I could share with you the many loving letters of appreciation her students, now adults, have given her over the years.

Like so many of us who struggle with the meaning and purpose of life, Phyllis examined the religious beliefs she’d been given during childhood and chose a new direction. Following a calling, in her 30s she joined the Kripalu Yoga Fellowship and moved into Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, a yoga ashram. An ashram is a place, like a monastery, for people drawn to practice selfless service, meditation, and other spiritual practices. Kripalu’s mission is to serve through teaching programs as varied as diet and nutrition, cutting-edge healing therapies, yoga, recreation, personal growth, dance and music. Phyllis taught guests yoga there, and continued to teach yoga in Paonia for decades after leaving.

Watercolor was her favorite art form. Most of her works are scattered all over the country because she painted note cards, birds, flowers, people enjoying nature, and sent them to loved ones far and near.

She met Steve Lyons at the ashram and the two later married. They had a loving and mutually supportive marriage for over 25 years. She is survived by everyone still alive in the world today. Phyllis leaves behind some irritated business people whose irresponsible, no-concern-for-consequences, resource extraction pursuits damage the environment we all depend on. Phyllis needled these people as she fought for environmental justice through protests, education, letters to the editors and key officials, and as a board member and one time chairperson for Citizens for a Healthy Community. She will be deeply missed, but also still available to those who love her and can tune into her unique and loving energy through prayer, meditation or during quiet moments.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Citizens For A Healthy Community, 211 Grand Ave., Paonia, CO 81428, chc4you.org.