Life Story / Obituary
Marion Louise Riley Phelps
May 11, 1933 – July 14, 2023
Marion Riley Phelps, age 90, of Mount Pleasant, Michigan, died peacefully at her son’s home in Holland, Michigan and went to heaven to be with Jesus, her Lord and Savior, on July 14, 2023. Marion Louise was the first child born to Howard Elmer Riley, Sr. and Mildred Marion Sieder, on May 11, 1933, in Detroit, Michigan. Throughout her youth, she was active in her church, school, community, and camp. She was baptized at Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church and sang in the choir. In school, she was an editor for the yearbook and newspaper. She graduated from Southeastern High School in 1951, her favorite class being home economics. She loved Camp Fire Girls, both locally and at Camp Wathana. As a youngster, she was a Blue Bird and a Camp Fire Girl. During her high school years, she was a member of the Horizon Club, of which she was Detroit Area youth president in her senior year, planning and leading events and training. Spending ten years at Camp Wathana, she was first a camper, then a Counselor-in-training, a Cabin Counselor; lastly, she served as Camp Nurse. In 1952, she led girls as Teen Unit Director on weekly expeditions across Lake Wildemere (now Green Lake), as part of Wathana’s adventure program. She became an adept cook, swimmer, archer, canoeist, leader, and administrator.
In 1956 Marion graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Michigan School of Nursing, in the first class of students with a 5-year nursing degree. During her last year of college, “Maid Marion,” as she was known to her nursing mates, helped organize a co-op for fifth-year nursing students. The group took turns preparing dinners in the fellowship hall of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor. There she met her future husband, Fritz Phelps. His master’s studies were interrupted when he was drafted and sent to Fort Bliss in Texas. After graduating from college, Marion served as a public health nurse in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Granted leave, Private Frederick Martin Phelps, III and Marion were married at her home church JAPC, on March 2, 1957, officiated by Dr. Allen A. Zaun. They moved to Edgewood, Maryland for a year, where she was employed again as a public health nurse.
Upon Fritz’s honorable discharge from the Army, he resumed his studies in Ann Arbor and Marion returned to public health nursing. Marion and Fritz became the parents of Frederick Martin, IV, Dorothy Louise, and Richard Alan in Kalamazoo, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and Ann Arbor respectively. After Fritz accepted a position teaching physics at Central Michigan University, they moved to Mount Pleasant in late summer 1970. They built their dream home on the banks of the Chippewa River, living there for 50 years.
Since childhood, Marion loved road trip adventures, photography, and birdwatching. She and Fritz traveled extensively, taking their children on several long trips. The most memorable ones were trips to the west, camping, touring national parks and historical places, and visiting friends and relatives. She joined a birding club, became proficient at bird identification - particularly by sound - and passed that love to her children.
Marion immersed herself in her family and community. She was a Cub Scout leader, Girl Scout leader, and the Troop Advisory Committee chairman. After Fritz became scoutmaster, she served on the Boards of Review for boys earning their Eagle Scout rank throughout northeast Michigan. For this service, the Lake Huron Area Council awarded her the Silver Beaver, the highest award given to a volunteer. For two summers, her entire family worked at Bear Lake Scout Camp where she served as a nurse. For several years, she sewed costumes and dresses for high school musicals and choirs. In 1971 she joined a bridge club and the eight ladies played together for 40 years and then continued to meet monthly for breakfast for another decade. She was active in Central Michigan University Dames and was its president in 1978-1979.
Marion enjoyed serving the Lord and helping others. She was a regular churchgoer her entire life and acknowledged Jesus as her Savior at a young age. In 1980, she and Fritz helped found Mount Pleasant Community Church, and she served in numerous capacities. At MPCC, she sang in the choir, served as treasurer, baked bread for visitors, helped in the kitchen, oversaw writing announcements and prayer requests for the bulletin, participated in Vacation Bible School, and twice was a member of the Pastoral Search Committee. For over 20 years, she faithfully led a group of ladies in Precept Bible studies.
Marion was a gracious hostess, a self-taught interior designer, and creative artist. She loved hosting large groups and preparing gourmet meals for family gatherings such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and other special occasions, and for company who came to visit. She knew how to combine beauty, elegance, class, and color throughout her home. Her company enjoyed her beautifully set dining table and family photos in her hallway. She made rings and necklaces with silver and stones in her early years, created several glazed white pottery items while living in Pittsford, New York, and later used her embroidery, cross-stitching, and quilting skills in creating beautiful, framed items and ornaments.
She was a dedicated American patriot and loved her country. Recognizing that her English and German ancestors came to America for better opportunities, she advanced through the citizenship program of the Camp Fire Girls, receiving the highest award, the Junior American Citizen. At her high school graduation, she was presented with the school’s Citizenship Award. She loved flying the Stars and Stripes and cherished the freedoms for which it stands. This was especially reflected in her family room decorated with red, white, and blue memorabilia.
Marion is survived by her husband of 66 years, her children Frederick M. (Li Li) Phelps, IV, Dorothy (Andrew P.) Gellai, Sr., and Richard (Emily) Phelps; and eight grandchildren: Frederick M. Phelps, V “Wu Hao” (Charlene) Phelps, Rachael Xin Yan Phelps, Daniel Kaile (Ashlyn) Phelps, Andrew “Paul” Gellai, Jr., Matthew John Gellai, Lilia Ellen Phelps (Omar Moreno), Galina Phelps (Brian) Harvey, and Vladimir James Phelps; and two great grandchildren: Aiden and Emerson, with one more on way; her brother Howard Elmer (Sharon) Riley, Jr., sister-in-law Prudence Webb (Charlie) Billiu, and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, youngest brother Charles Edward Riley, and sister-in-law Marilyn Moons Watt.
Marion enjoyed being a housewife, a mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, and friend. She always showed a keen interest in others, greatly impacting many, and was a beloved “Mom2” to dozens. She will be remembered for her superb hospitality and administrative skills; her scrumptious homemade cinnamon rolls, bread, pies, and cakes; sewing and cross-stitching, and Longaberger basket collection. Her deep faith, simple elegance and class, style, fashion, grace, and beaming, infectious smile will be remembered by all who were blessed to know her. She was a faithful servant of God who touched many lives in countless ways.
Contributions may be made to Mount Pleasant Community Church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, or Precept Ministries., Intl.
There will be two memorial services: The first service will take place at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 1015 E 32nd St, Holland, Mich. on August 5th at 4 p.m. The second will be held at Mount Pleasant Community Church, 1400 W. Broomfield Street, Mt. Pleasant, Mich. at 11 a.m. on August 19th.
Arrangements are by the Dykstra Funeral Home-Mulder Chapel.