A Live Lived: Jennifer Phillips’ life was a lesson in courage and faith

Published 1:34 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2023

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Editorial Director
Jennifer R. Phillips was only 54 years old when she died July 22. But, what a warrior she had been!
Jennifer was an educator, having taught at both Range and Hampton Elementary Schools. She earned her B.S. degree in education from ETSU, and later earned a Master’s degree in education from Tusculum University, and then went on to earn her EdS degree from Lincoln Memorial University.
At Range Elementary, she taught fourth and fifth graders and at Hampton Elementary, she taught reading and math to sixth and seventh graders.
“She loved her students and enjoyed teaching. She often stayed after school to help struggling students,” said husband, Doug.
Her best friend and teaching associate, Delana McKinney, shared that Jennifer was a strong, dedicated person. “She was very professional, but yet funny. She cared deeply, not only for her students, but for her family and work associates. It was not unusual for Jennifer to use her planning period or stay after school to help a student. She wanted her students to learn and to succeed,” said Delana, who was among Jennifer’s best friends.
Jennifer fought cancer for 10 years, but rarely did she complain or miss school because of it. “She always had a smile, She was a strong person even when going through chemotherapy,” said Delana as she shared stories about her teaching friend through tears.
In addition to teaching, she was the mother of two sons, Kane and Luke, both of whom are in their 20s now.
“She loved her church, and this summer after a stay in the hospital she helped in Vacation Bible School,” Delana shared. She was also a volunteer for the Isaiah 1:17 House.
Jennifer was a member of First Christian Church, Johnson City, and her hope during the battle with cancer was that others would see God’s love through her in that battle. “She was a courageous fighter and she would always tell me, ‘It’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. It’s time to celebrate what God has done for me. She wanted to point everyone to Jesus,” said Doug, who is a truck driver.
“Her only desire was to live long enough to raise her boys. They are now 25 and 23, so God granted her wish. And, Kane and his wife are expecting our first grandchild. Jennifer was excited about it, but told me I had to take care of it for her,” said Doug.
Jennifer loved her family – not only her children, but her nieces and nephews as well. She enjoyed going to the beach and the pool, and riding in her convertible. Her favorite beach to visit was Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina.
She also enjoyed gardening and raising flowers.
Doug said Jennifer was a great cook. One of her favorite dishes was spaghetti, of which the recipe was her grandmother’s. “It was really good and included cooked spaghetti, tomato sauce, and chili powder. She could cook anything,” he said.
Delana added that Jennifer’s sausage and gravy was the best.
“Everything she did, she did well,” noted Doug, who shared that he met Jennifer while she was in college and cut hair on her lunch break. “She would come to the shop and cut hair for the fellows there. She was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was lucky to have her. My plan is to go to her. I’m sure she’ll save a place for me,” he said with both a broken voice and broken heart.
Jennifer made sure she had a quiet time every day to read her Bible and pray. Among her favorite verses which she had written on her phone and in other places were Prov. 16:9, “In his heart man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps,” and Prov. 16:3, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plan will succeed.”
Another favorite was Ex. 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.”
Jennifer was the daughter of Charlene Tolley of Hampton and had two brothers and a sister and a couple of stepbrothers. Additionally, she had a host of friends.
Perhaps her teaching friend, Delana, summed up Jennifer’s life best: “She was a wonderful teacher, a wonderful person. She cared more for others than she did herself and was very supportive of her family, co-workers, and her church. She loved the Lord, and she was sure of her relationship with God. Everything she did, especially during her battle with cancer, was done in the Lord’s strength, and she was quick to tell you that. I miss my friend and I always will. But, she was looking forward to being with Jesus. That’s where her hope was.”
Jennifer’s body was laid to rest July 29 at Roselawn Memorial Gardens in Erwin.

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