Esther Harrison Phillips of Austin, Texas, passed away on May 30, 2018, after struggling with heart disease and other complications. “Sis” as she was known to family, was nearly 89.
She was born in Harlem on Aug. 8, 1929 — two months before the nation’s Great Depression— to Queen Esther Harrison and Felder Harrison Sr. The couple had 10 children.
Though Esther was told by her teachers not to bother with an education and instead focus on domestic work or menial duties more suitable for African Americans, she got her GED, studied secretarial skills and became a secretary, ultimately rising to administrative assistant to the top executive of The Nassau County Medical Center in Long Island, NY.
She went on to earn an associates of science degree from Nassau Community College (N.Y.), graduating magna cum laude.
She was active in her union (Civil Service Employees Association or CSEA) as a delegate, volunteer, and as a main writer of its newsletter.
But her most beloved job was being a mom and grandmother. She married Grover C. Phillips (deceased) just before WWII and the couple had a son and three daughters.
In later life, Esther loved shopping — especially online — spending summers with a daughter and her family on Martha’s Vineyard, seeing live theatre at The Zach and Esther’s Follies and watching her favorite tennis stars compete in Grand Slam events.
A few highlights of her life was seeing Robert Kennedy during his presidential campaign, attending the U.S. Open as a gift from a grandson, where they watched Serena Williams and other stars in box seats, center court, and casting a vote for the first black president.
Esther, who was told to train for menial labor, spawned grandchildren who graduated from Harvard, Yale, Rice, George Washington, University of Southern California and Hofstra, with others who attended The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago.
She is survived by her sister, Gertrude Smith; daughters Korvette Phillips and Alberta Phillips (Gary Bledsoe) of Austin, and Angela Phillips-Arrington (John) of Connecticut; grandchildren Cheryse Phillips Lartigue (Tracy), Grover Phillips, Billy Brooks, Mehcad Brooks, Gerard McGeary, Ashley McGeary; and great grandchildren Korvette Phillips, Roman Lartigue, and Kennedy Lartigue.
In lieu of flowers, give to the Austin Animal Center or American Cancer Society.