Phyllis Arloine (Washburn) Austin-Bertera, age 81, of West Springfield, died peacefully in her home on Monday, March 9, 2020. Phyllis was born in Gouverneur, NY on June 29, 1938, to the late Brayton and Helene Washburn. Phyllis’ life was full of accomplishments. Her family moved from New York to Ludlow, VT in 1941 where Phyllis graduated from Black River High School. While in school, it became clear that Phyllis was a talented and ambitious social butterfly. She was a cheerleader, class treasurer, a member of the school band, and piano accompanist to the school’s Glee Club. After graduating from high school Phyllis attended the University of Vermont where she studied music education, piano, and voice. Her first marriage brought she and her growing family to West Springfield in the 1960’s. Phyllis began to teach piano lessons to earn her own income. She held various other professional positions including Christian Education Director at Mittineague Congregational Church, Secretary for the Council of Churches of Greater Springfield, and Program Manager at the American Lung Association. She took pride in her work and had many notable accomplishments throughout her career. However, Phyllis’ real passion was serving her community; her volunteer history would fill multiple pages. Some notable examples are her work as accompanying pianist for the ‘West Side Choristers’; Sunday school teacher, senior choir member, junior church director, substitute organist and member of the Board of Deacons at Mittineague Congregational Church; Founding member of the Friends of the West Springfield Senior Center, Open Pantry, West Side Helping Hands Project, and the Taste of West Springfield; Director of the popular Senior Center Talent Show; and Member of the Chamber of Commerce. In addition to her extensive volunteer work, she joined the Republican Town Committee in the 1970’s, becoming active in local politics. She was elected the first woman to serve on the West Springfield Board of Selectmen from 1981- 1984. Phyllis also served a second term as Selectwoman in 1998 and 1999, thus becoming the first woman and last woman Selectman in town before welcoming in the new mayoral form of government. Phyllis married the love of her life, the late Aldo M. Bertera, owner of the Bertera car dealerships, in 1990. Both were extensively involved in the West Springfield Rotary Club and Phyllis volunteered her time to the success of Aldo’s business by becoming a customer satisfaction advocate and promoting employee safety by developing and teaching an OSHA program. Phyllis was also an author and town historian. She wrote the book Badges of Honor which outlines the history of the West Springfield Police Department and includes extensive details about the history of the town overall. She also wrote poetry. Phyllis was diagnosed with dementia in 2006. Throughout her struggle, she remained funny, kind, and curious. She spent the last years of her life living at home under the care of her devoted daughter, Alexandria, where she spent quality time in the company of those who loved her the most. Phyllis was predeceased by her husband Aldo and her sisters Noreen Chadburn and Doreen Armstong. In addition to many cousins, nieces, and nephews, she leaves her sister Nancy (Washburn) Sudziarski and husband Eugene of Florida as well as her brother Earl Washburn of Ludlow, VT. She also leaves her four children: daughter, Robin Alane Alexander (née Austin) and her husband Russell, son Richard Andrew Austin, son Randall Alden Austin and his wife Madeline, and daughter Alexandria Margaret Isabella Lyne and her husband Mark. She was known adoringly as “MumMum” to nine grandchildren: Chelsea (Delnero) Contrada and husband Wayne, James Delnero, Terry Ross, Zachary Lyne, Victoria Lyne, Austin Lyne, Robert Austin, Rebecca Austin, and Rachel Austin and her great-granddaughter Tessa Delnero. Phyllis will also be missed by her beloved stepsons Michael Bertera, his wife Janna and their son Quinton; and Stephen Bertera, his wife Celina, and their four children, Alex, Evan, Jack and Alaria. To know Phyllis was to love her. She will be dearly remembered by her family and friends for her humor, spunk, fiery red hair and her dedication to the well-being of her community. Calling hours will be Monday 4-7 pm at the TOOMEY-O’BRIEN FUNERAL HOME, 1043 Westfield Street, West Springfield. The Funeral will be held on Tuesday at 11 AM at the Mittineague Congregation Church, 1840 Westfield Street, West Springfield. Burial will be at the convenience of the family. In lieu of flowers, those who wish to honor Phyllis’ memory should consider donating to the Ramapogue Historical Society, Box 826, West Springfield, MA 01089 or the Black River Academy Museum, 14 High Street, Ludlow, VT 05149.
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