The Camp Arcadia family mourns the passing of Phyllis Muhlenbruch Wallace. Phyllis died peacefully and gracefully at home on March 24, 2020 surrounded by her family. She created and served as coordinator and host for Camp’s women’s retreats for 20 years. Having grown up spending her summers at her family’s cottage in the Arcadia Cottage Colony, Phyllis continued to spend many of her summers and falls in Arcadia. You could find her at lectures, playing tennis, hosting family and friends, and connecting with campers, cottagers and locals. She loved her family and immensely enjoyed her time with them in Arcadia. Being a mom to four children and oma to nine grandchildren were her most cherished roles.
Phyllis’ award-winning broadcast, Lutheran Hour Ministries’ Woman to Woman radio program, spanned 20 years and over 1,400 broadcasts to 400 stations. She was a popular speaker and Bible study leader as well as an author, counselor, and educator.
We were blessed to experience Phyllis’ many talents at Camp Arcadia’s women’s retreats. As a triple-threat she could connect with you through her speaking, writing and counseling. She could make you cry with a story as well as make you laugh with a hilarious skit she cajoled the keynote speaker to join her in. She set a tone for the retreats that was fun, inspirational and deeply moving.
Jess McCallum, Camp’s program director, remarked, “It was a privilege to serve alongside in ministry with Phyllis. As a woman of God, she touched and changed many lives, including mine, as a vessel of God’s love, mercy and grace. She will be deeply missed.”
Deb Dinkmeyer, a fellow Arcadia cottager, and music leader for many women’s retreats, reflects on her time working with Phyllis, “Working on the women’s retreats with Phyllis was a highlight for me each year. We both were musical and enjoyed all those beautiful women lifting up their voices in praise! We had our favorites such as Lead Me Lord, which we used to start each retreat. The harmony was beautiful! Phyllis chose this song as she felt it was the prayer that covered the entire weekend. She was a blessing and I have sweet memories of her laughter, her insights, her soft voice and her earnest prayers. I loved her.”
Through her connections from her radio show she was able to bring in some amazing speakers to Camp Arcadia over the years. From best-selling author, Richard Swenson, to well-known Christian women presenters such as Jan Dravecky, Elaine Colson, and Nancy Stafford, and of course top Lutheran presenters such as Jean Garton, Betty Duda, Jan Struck, and Elaine Bickel.
Monique Nunes, a women’s retreat presenter at Camp Arcadia remarked on the impact Phyllis had on her, “Phyllis was my spiritual mother. She was my prayer warrior. She was a beacon of light for me and others. God made Phyllis’ hands so deep and wide so she could embrace people. A voice of reason; yes, that was Mama Phyllis! At the end of every conversation I had with her she would ask, “What can I pray for you and John about?” I loved her sweet spirit, warm smile and love for Jesus. What a role model and mentor. You will be missed… but, NEVER forgotten!”
Some reflections by Chip May, Camp’s executive director …
I served with Phyllis, or P-fil as I called her, for 20 years as we worked to make the women’s retreats the best they could be. As a young director in my 20’s working with Phyllis was like drinking from a fire hose. As a fast talker and an even quicker mind, she could rattle off new ideas for the retreats faster than I could write. I remember looking at her incredulously as she told me she wanted to give each retreat attendee a bottle of Joy brand soap because it tied in with the theme. She had the last laugh as I unloaded hundreds of bottles of soap from her car moments later.
As I matured I learned to appreciate Phyllis for her qualities that weren’t necessarily mentioned in her bio. While she shined in the big moments in front of people, it was the small moments sitting with women, listening, counseling, and praying with them, that I saw more fully the gifts that God had given her. She spent countless hours sitting with women at Camp and in town. Her confidence in Christ, allowed her to reach out to anyone and everyone that crossed paths with her with the love of Jesus.
In recent years, Phyllis became a close confidant and constant source of encouragement. I was fortunate to spend a few minutes with her last summer at her cottage. I treasure those moments with her, where even in her exhaustion with her battle with cancer, she found the energy to encourage me once again. It is hard to imagine that she is gone, but I know that her impact on me and so many others will last a lifetime. P-fil, I know you are in heaven, and by now you’ve reunited with the other Arcadians — you found them because of the laughter, and I bet you’ve already begun planning an epic doubles tennis match.