July 23, 1889 - May 19, 1918
Meryl Grace Phillips was the daughter of Mary and Maynard J. Phillips, and received her early education in Muncy Valley and Benton. She entered the Bloomsburg State Normal School in September of 1909 for two years in the Special Course, and later graduated as a nurse from the Williamsport Hospital. She eventually became assistant superintendent of the hospital, and then in November of 1916 moved to the same position at the Bloomsburg Hospital, which she capably filled while in charge of the operating room. When war broke out in 1917 Meryl was determined to go to France as a Red cross nurse, so enlisted with a unit at Jefferson Hospital. When she received a telegram on March 27, 1918 notifying her to prepare to report for duty she immediately resigned her position at the hospital and made ready. In token of their appreciation the doctors and nurses of the Bloomsburg Hospital presented her with a purse of gold as a farewell remembrance.
Meryl left Bloomsburg on April 1 for Lakewood, New Jersey where she was stationed, awaiting transportation to France. Her letters home repeatedly expressed her desire and eagerness to get into active service. But on May 8 her family was notified she had developed pneumonia and was seriously ill at U. S. General Hospital in New York City. The family rushed to her side, and one week later her father sent a telegram that she was very low and that no more mail should be sent to the hospital. Three days later Meryl died on May 19, 1918.
Meryl Phillips was the eldest daughter of Judge Maynard J. Phillips, and was survived by her father (her mother having passed away in 1915), and by her two younger sisters, Helen and Maizie. Maizie Phillips had a further connection to the Memorial Pinery when she took over in January 1918 as principal of Millville High School for B. S. N. S. graduate Earle Robbins, who went into the service, died the following September, and was also remembered as part of the pinery. A large memorial service for Meryl was held on May 22 at the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Bloomsburg, now Wesley United Methodist Church. Trustees, nurses, and members of the Bloomsburg Hospital medical staff were all in attendance, along with members of the local Red Cross chapter. During the service the minister read the following action taken at a meeting of the Board of Managers of the Bloomsburg Hospital:
"Miss Phillips possessed in a marked degree the Christian graces which qualified her in a special manner for her life work. Her services as Assistant Superintendent of the Bloomsburg Hospital for nearly two years were rendered in a faithful and conscientious manner, and it was indeed a loss to the Hospital when she heard and heeded the call of her country to a broader field of activity and resigned her position on April 1st last. With her accustomed zeal and impelled by a heroism to brave every peril and if need be sacrifice life itself, she pursued her preparation for a transfer over the seas, when an inscrutable Providence permitted what proved to be a fatal disease to terminate her career on earth. Her life was as truly given for her country as if permitted to accompany her associate members of the Jefferson Unit across the seas. The precious memory of Miss Phillips will long abide with the Officials, Staff, and Nurses of the Bloomsburg Hospital."
The following day she was taken to Sonestown in Sullivan County, where she was buried in Hillcrest Cemetery overlooking the town. Meryl Phillips was under no obligation to risk her life for her country, but her sense of duty was too strong, and in the end she gave her life in the pursuit of saving others. The following poem that appeared in the Bloomsburg Morning Press on May 28, 1918 summarizes her life and sacrifice.
In Memory of Miss Meryl G. Phillips.
|Her beautiful life is ended
To us it seems all too soon
Tho her spirit immortal is shining
While we still live on in this gloom.
The sick and afflicted will miss her
The voice that they loved is stilled
How can her home ties be kindled?
How can her place be filled?
Though are hearts are bowed low in sorrow
Of this we dare not complain
We must trust in the comforting promise
Our loss is her eternal gain.
Methinks she was needed in heaven
Where all is such wonderful love
Perhaps she is caring for soldiers
Who are living with God above.
Mrs. John M. Sheerer
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