A remarkable athletic, intelligent and accomplished woman left this earth on April 9th when Phyllis Adele Bagley passed away at 94. Miss Bagley died at home of natural causes with loved ones present.
Phyllis Bagley was born on January 17th, 1928 in Hamilton to Charles and Anna (Turnell) Bagley and would be the oldest of four daughters. Sisters, Wilma "Willie," Cleo and Dolores "Dorsey" followed her into the family.
Their father's work obligations took the family first to Anaconda in 1940 before settling in Missoula in 1945. High school sports for girls were not prevalent or common while Phyllis was in her teens, but she did make her mark on the fields playing city recreation women's fastpitch softball. She hunted western Montana's forested mountains successfully for deer and elk with her father, was an avid fisherwoman and boater. She water skied and snow skied, turning to cross country skiing and snowshoeing as winter sports in her later adult years.
Phyllis Bagley also gave golf a try and became one of Missoula's best woman bowlers. She was a fierce competitor and a winner. Asa 6-foot-1 shortstop, Phyllis led her softball teams to many championships and participation in state and national tournaments.
A "League of Their Own" would have likely been a league of Phyllis Bagley's if word of the women's pro baseball circuit in the 1940s-50s had reached her in Missoula.
Phyllis graduated from Missoula County High School in 1946 and said she couldn't leave it behind fast enough. A stalwart supporter of education as an institution and doorway to opportunity, Phyllis Bagley continued through her end days to profess to actually hate school.
She was, forever antsy and never tired of learning.
After several years of working following high school graduation, including a stint at the Missoula Mercantile, Phyllis Bagley, a champion of women's rights before the idea became a general term, decided to expand her horizons and drag herself back kicking and fighting into the halls of education eight years after she had graduated high school.
She enrolled at Montana State University (now the University of Montana) planning to major in education and become, believe it or not, a teacher. Through mostly stubbornness and discipline, Phyllis Bagley earned her degree in health and physical education in 1957 and won a fellowship for studying physical therapy at The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
She recalled her high hopes after applying for the fellowship and disappointment over not hearing immediately whether she had received it. So, with time passing and fear of not having a job, she signed a contract with Missoula County to teach high school physical education. Shortly before the school year began, Phyllis received a confirmation letter from Mayo Clinic that she had been chosen for the fellowship.
She had known the county schools superintendent for years dating back to Anaconda when he was the Anaconda High School superintendent before moving on to Missoula. Phyllis contacted him about how she might be able to break her contract with the schools so that she could accept the fellowship.
She said he took care of the matter, congratulated her and she moved to Rochester.
In 1960, Phyllis Bagley became the very first licensed physical therapist in the state of Montana and began her career at St. James Hospital in Butte.
Missing family and friends, Phyllis moved to Missoula in 1963 to practice her profession. She became director of the Missoula Crippled Children's Center and then opened her own private practice in 1979 before retiring in 1990. She won many awards for her work and advocated for her patients before the State Legislature while also heading fundraising efforts for the center.
She particularly enjoyed carving, woodworking, and Lady G riz basketball. She grew vegetable gardens. When her nieces and nephews were youngsters, Phyllis entertained them with trips to the root beer stand and doses of elephant and knock-knock jokes.
A traveler through much of the Western United States and Canada, Phyllis Bagley's favorite hobby was work. She won wood-sawing competitions as a teenager and, in adult life, landscaped and maintained her homes. She also built, with family help, and maintained one house on Flathead Lake until selling it only a few years ago. Her first house she owned in Missoula had to be vacated so that Reserve Street could be widened to four lanes.
Phyllis took care of her last home, including the lawn and flowers, up to her death.
She seldom missed a family function, attending all the weddings and as many birthday celebrations as she was able.
Phyllis was preceded in death by her parents, sisters and brothers-in-law Willie and Jim Sayler, Cleo and Bernard Wenger and William Heal. She was also preceded by nephews Todd Hagestad and John Wenger, and dear family friend Helen Stewart.
She is survived by sister Dolores Heal of Helena, and nephews and nieces Bruce (Eileen) Sayler of Butte, Kim (Lori) Sayler of Lolo, Debra Wenger of Roseburg, Oregon, Rodney (Peggy) Wenger of Havre, Charles (Susan) Wenger of Billings, Dianna Wenger of Roseburg, Oregon, Kari Wenger of Casa Grande, Arizona, and Timmie Jo Hagestad of Butte.
Phyllis is also survived by many great and great-great nephews and nieces.
In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to a favorite charity.