Rockin’ a Hard Place: A beautiful remembrance to heal a forgettable time

Each of us has that wonderful remembrance to treasure.

Phyllis Sherman

Phyllis Sherman

Just after 2020 ended, as I was desperately trying to forget it, and as 2021 dawned and began to look equally forgettable, I was invited to come enjoy a beautiful memory.

Coupeville United Methodist Church, built in1893 and home to several generations of Central Whidbey farm families, has installed a new “remembrance window” in honor of a very special woman we lost a year ago: Phyllis Sherman. She was born on a local farm, went to school in Coupeville, married local farmer Al Sherman and raised four daughters on Ebey’s Prairie.

And she rarely missed a Sunday at the Methodist church, often organizing the potluck coffee hours, bringing altar flowers from her garden, cleaning the building and joining with other women in the Covenant Group to make sure things at the church were always “done right.”

Val Hillers, a member of the Covenant Group and longtime friend of Phyllis, sent me a note urging me to come see how well the window had turned out. “Phyllis passed away in January and the pandemic hit before we could think about how to honor her,” Val said. “This idea came up in April and May, as we were physically distanced and forced to worship on Zoom and catch up on phone calls. Then we went to work, hired a glass artist and had it installed in October. Many of our members haven’t even seen it yet.”

As they honed their idea, one thing was certain. Phyllis, who was 87 when she passed away, would never want anything in the church tagged with her name on a plaque. Not a pew, not a classroom, not the kitchen and definitely not a stained glass window. Therefore there’s no plaque or other information on the Remembrance Window. “That’s just who she was,” said Al, her husband of 64 years. “She knew the church belongs to everybody.” And so, the window is designed so that each person who views it may bring to mind their own personal remembrance, he said.

But why a window in this particular spot in the sanctuary? The row of clear windows next to the altar had always irritated Phyllis – particularly the center pane, which had been replaced at some point in the last 100 years with glass that was “clearer” and didn’t match the panes beside it. On many Sunday mornings, the sun could shine so brightly through the pane that many a parishioner was forced to squint during worship. Phyllis had often said she was determined to fix that. And now she has.

Julia Banks, a stained glass artist whose shop in Everett is appropriately named Covenant Art Glass, was hired to create the window. The finished piece features a garden pathway surrounded by a tree and lots of flowers, an appropriate memory of how much Phyllis loved to grow and share flowers. It is composed of vibrant glass colors, held together by a copper foil technique and anchored in a dark wood frame that matches the surrounding windows.

Al Sherman, Val Hillers and I met at the church on Jan. 7, one year to the day after Phyllis died. We spent quite awhile admiring the window; it became apparent to us how, as the sun sinks slowly behind it in the afternoon, the window’s hues shift and change with the light.

As we left the historic church building together, I remarked that I was so pleased that Phyllis had taken a liking to me, calling me more than once to say she liked something I wrote in this newspaper.

“Well, keep in mind that Phyllis took a liking to just about everybody she met,” Val said. To which Al quickly added, “She even took a liking to me!”

Each of us has that wonderful remembrance to treasure.

Harry Anderson is a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times currently living on Central Whidbey.

The new Remembrance Window at Coupeville Methodist Church honors Phyllis Sherman.

The new Remembrance Window at Coupeville Methodist Church honors Phyllis Sherman.

More in Life

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Brittany Darby helps raise a wall at Habitat for Humanity of Island County’s two townhomes on Southeast 10th Avenue in Oak Harbor during the Women Build event Saturday.
Women Build: Lending some muscle to Habitat for Humanity

Forty women and some men volunteered for Habitat’s Women Build 2021 event this past weekend.

Members of the public and Whidbey Island Rocks are encouraged to paint and hide stones with Garry oak designs or other local flora and fauna this week in preparation for a hunt Saturday. Photo by Jane Geddes
Island rock hunt celebrates Oak Harbor ‘Year of the Oak’

Whidbey Island Rocks is encouraging people to paint stones with Garry oaks before a hunt Saturday.

Photo provided
The Deception Pass Sail and Power Squadron, also known as America’s Boating Club of Deception Pass, hosts jamborees and other social events, along with boater safety and education classes.
Whidbey boaters promote safety, education

The Deception Pass Sail and Power Squadron hosts education and safety classes, and social events.

Michael Nichols, owner of Whidbey Green Goods, stands in his hoop house, also known as “The Hovel.” Customers visit the Clinton farm to pick up their own produce and plant starts. (Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News Group)
One-man Whidbey Island farm gears up for spring

The pandemic has brought a longtime farmer out of retirement.

Master Gardener Don Krafft gathers some broccoli in his garden plot at South Whidbey Tilth. He grows several things that are available for purchase at the Island County Master Gardener online plant sale. (Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record)
Master Gardeners kick off plant sale, continue clincs

Green thumbs who have had a taste of spring sunshine and want to begin planting can do so with the help of the Island County Master Gardeners.

Photo provided
Stella Rowan, left, Savannah Mounce and Luna Grove, right, get together for swims and photoshoots like this one at Deception Pass State Park. The trio of two mermaids and a self-described “heavy metal selkie” call themselves the Whidbey Island Sirens.
Whidbey Island Sirens making quite a splash

The trio will be at Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor this Saturday.

Frances Schultz, holding a picture of her younger self, recently turned 100 years old. Her daughter, Connie Van Dyke, right, said her mother’s photo looks like one of actress Barbara Stanwyck. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
At 100, Oak Harbor woman reflects on busy life

Frances Schultz turned 100 years old on March 30.

Joel Atienza’s uniform’s USAF/USSF patches prior to transfer. Photo provided
Oak Harbor 2010 grad selected for U.S. Space Force

Joel Atienza’s advice to Space Force hopefuls? “Remember, ‘The sky is not the limit.’”

The Oystercatcher’s owner and chef, Tyler Hansen, prepares a dozen 3 Sisters beef bolognese lasagnas to go on the shelves at 3 Sisters Market. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Chef liaises with other business owners

A Coupeville chef has expanded his partnership with local business owners to… Continue reading

Joe Gunn holding a freshly backed rhubarb pie. (Photo by Harry Anderson)
How a pie on the Rock became a brand and legend

Whidbey Pies is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

Color Guard Capt. Mike Hutchins, at left, and John Kraft present the Sons of the American Revolution Bronze Good Citizenship Medal to Bobbi Lornson, center. (Photo by Teresa Addison)
Oak Harbor woman awarded ‘Good Citizenship’ medal

Bobbi Lornson, past president of the Oak Harbor Lions Club president and volunteer, was recently recognized for her contributions to the community.

Tim Leonard, owner of the Machine Shop in Langley, hangs a purple neon star he made on the wall of his arcade. Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News Group
Neon art show colorizes Machine Shop’s reopening

A cacophony of happy buzzers and bells and a riot of glowing… Continue reading