Phyllis Deen Rowe, 89, passed away peacefully in her home in Alexandria, Virginia, after a long battle with cancer, on Thursday, December 19, 2019. She was born in 1930 in Everett, Washington to Phillip Deen and Hazel Marion (Morseth) Rowe. Phyllis lived a life of discovery and adventure, eager to learn, to explore, to create and to see every corner of the world, overcoming many challenges of her generation. She was a scientist, a traveler, an artist and a cat lover, eager to create her own unique path for all of her 89 years.
Phyllis was also a pioneer and explorer, earning her B.S. degree in Zoology at the University of Washington in 1953 after taking a gap year to travel around Europe with her friend Charmaine after the end of World War II. They hitchhiked from Paris to Lille, buying a Vespa and traveling down to Tunis and back up to visit her Norwegian relatives in Selbu. She paused for six months in Paris to study French at the Sorbonne when she wanted a break from the travel. Phyllis and Charmaine retraced their memorable steps again 62 years later, returning together to visit France one more time over New Year’s 2019, a year after Phyllis was diagnosed with cancer in what would be her last European trip.
Phyllis completed her Master’s at Brandeis in Biology in 1957, a time when it was hard to even be admitted to advanced programs as a woman, and married Fred Kaplan that same year. She spent time at Yale, and after a year at IBM in Zurich in 1959, she and Fred moved to California where their son Deen was born in 1960. They next moved to Cincinnati, where their daughter Madeleine was born in 1963. Phyllis completed her Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1967 and worked in the Environmental Health department at the University of Cincinnati until 1978 when she shifted to industry, working with American Cyanamid in New York, at Allergan in California and Nice, France as their Director of International Research, and finishing her career in the sciences in Seattle at La Hayes Labs in 1996.
Phyllis loved her family, art, beauty and travel, and retirement was no time to slow down, but to stay busy enjoying life. “Use it or lose it” she would always say. She moved to the Washington, D.C. area to be close to Deen, his wife Margaret, and her beloved grandsons, Joshua and Jonathan. She also rented a place in Aix en Provence and was able to split her time between Virginia and France, spending six months of the year in France closer to her daughter Madeleine, and dearly loved grandchildren Nicole and Alex Fusi who were living in Florence, Italy.
With her love of cats and the guidance of her favorite, Celine, she became an active member of the Old Town Village Kitty Co-op, and with her love of art, she became involved in the Lee Arts Center and Alexandria Art League. She worked tirelessly at “her studio” at the Lee Arts Center, a true second home for her. She was an inspiration, traveling off the beaten path to create her own way, oftentimes quite a fiery handful, but always cool and open minded. Phyllis was an avid reader of thousands and thousands of books, and never tired of talking about museums, travel, politics or the latest thing she had learned from her reading. She sent thousands of newspaper articles to family and friends worldwide, carefully clipping anything interesting she read each morning when she thought it might be interesting to someone else. And she lived life to the fullest until the last possible minute, driving to her studio each week until the last few weeks of her life.
Left to honor Phyllis and remember her spirit are her children, Deen (Margaret) Kaplan of McLean, Virginia, Madeleine Kaplan (Fusi) of Florence, Italy; her grandchildren, Nicole Fusi, Alexander Fusi, Joshua Kaplan and Jonathan Kaplan.
We thank her friends and family from around the world who loved her, and who she dearly treasured, always in her heart - Dennis, Chris, Carl and Connie, her lifelong friends, the Selbu Morseths, the West coast Morseth and Rowe cousins, JoséMaria from Spain, Christian and his son Johan from Nice, Alain from Aix, Vicki, Jenine, her fellow artists at the studio, her OTV friends, and her garden buddies.
A memorial service will be held at the Lee Arts Center, 5722 Lee Highway Arlington, Virginia at 11:00 am on Saturday Dec 28, 2019.
May Phyllis rest in grace and peace.