Kiella, Phyllis Anne (nee Malarney) – (April 26, 1926 – December 27, 2019) Phyllis was the third arrival into the Hillsdale, Michigan home of Theron Joseph “Barney” and Etolah B. (Stearns) Malarney, where she joined her twin sisters, Mary Louise and Frances. Years later, a brother, TJ joined them. Today, Phyllis died peacefully in her sleep, her life here now complete; she is home with her Lord. She gave us her love, and the gift of music.
Phyllis attended Hillsdale Public Schools, and after lugging her double-bass violin between her home on South Street and the high school on West Street, she graduated in 1943. Music was always a part of Phyllis’ early life, whether singing with her family or as a soloist at Saint Anthony Catholic Church. Growing up in Hillsdale, despite the Great Depression and Second World War, was a happy time, filled in the joy of an extended family and close friends.
World War II was in full progress at the time of Phyllis’ high school graduation; many male classmates were called into military service. Phyllis and her sisters delayed entry into college to serve their country as Rosy the Riveters in the defense factory, assembling B-17 bomber parts.
Their commitment to the war effort fulfilled, Phyllis attended her mother’s alma mater, Western Michigan College in Kalamazoo. There she completed four areas of study; two proved to be lifelong endeavors: vocal music and education. Phyllis was a charter member and vice-president of the Sigma Alpha Iota, Beta-Eta Chapter, music fraternity. Western introduced her to many enduring friendships. She studied there with, and later became a lifelong friend of Dr. Elwyn “Doc” Carter, an early chair of Western’s School of Music. She graduated in December of 1950 and has a legacy of four generations at WMU. She was awarded a Permanent Teaching Certificate by the State of Michigan; her accomplishments in the classroom acknowledged at her retirement by Sen. Ted Kennedy in his personal note to her from the US Senate.
Phyllis arrived by bus to Allegan, Michigan immediately after graduation where she was hired to become Allegan Public Schools’ Elementary and Junior High School Music Teacher. Four buildings, ten grades, no car. Her career spanned three generations of elementary students at Blessed Sacrament School, St. Margaret School, as well as Allegan Public Schools. Phyllis was an early voice in the Michigan Education Association and the Allegan Education Association, where she participated on the first, and many subsequent contract negotiation teams.
Phyllis was a teacher and performer, both. In college she sang with the Women’s Glee Club, the precursor to the Varsity Vagabonds and Gold Company. She also sang with the Otsego Community Chorus for many years, performed on Louise Carver’s Feminine Fancy television program, was Choir Director at Blessed Sacrament and St. Margaret Catholic Churches, and was a member and auditioned contralto soloist for the Grand Rapids Symphonic Choir under the Direction of Albert P. Smith. She was the oldest member and past-president of the Allegan Music Study Club. She was recently honored by Club members, the community, and former students at a special performance celebration.
Over the years, Phyllis taught hundreds of area singers in her private vocal music studio, where she helped develop many very special music students; some going on to professional careers as music performers. Her students participated in The Michigan High School Vocal Music Association adjudications, where most students were awarded the highest level designations. She and Carl Doubleday founded the Phyllis Malarney-Kiella Vocal Music Scholarship for the Summer Music Seminar sponsored by the Music Department at WMU.
In 1952, Phyllis married Albin Kiella, an IBM data-processing supervisor, and residential builder, who survives. Together they built a life together spanning 67 years, raising four children at their lake home, Dr. Michael (Barbara) Kiella; Dr. Patrick (Mary) Kiella; Christine (Roger) Rice; and John (Suzanne) Kiella; 10 grandchildren; and 4 great-grandchildren; sister-in-law Marjorie (Kincaid) Malarney; and many nieces and nephews.
Phyllis was preceded in death by her parents; her sisters Mary Louise Gilligan, Frances Henkes and their spouses; brother Theron Joseph “TJ” Malarney; and her grand-daughter Jacqueline Sue Rice.
Our family would like to thank Golden Orchard Assisted Care Facility – Fennville, and Plainwell Life Care Center for their support, kindness, and care during Phyllis’ final illness.
Memorial contributions in honor of Phyllis may be made to the Phyllis Malarney-Kiella Vocal Music Scholarship, c/o Gorden Funeral Residence, 528 Trowbridge Street, Allegan, MI 49010.
In keeping with her wishes, cremation has taken place. The family will meet with friends from 10:00 – 11:00 AM at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 421 Monroe Street, Kalamazoo, on Saturday, January 11, 2020 where A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 11:00 AM, Father Paul Redmond officiating. Private inurnment of the cremains will take place at Blessed Sacrament Cemetery, Allegan.
Allegan Floral and Gifts is assisting the family with floral arrangements. Please visit their website at https://alleganfloral.com/