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Phyllis Ray Smith Peterson
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Obituary for Phyllis Ray Smith Peterson

Phyllis Ray (nee Smith) Peterson passed away on October 17, 2017, surrounded by her loving family, after bravely battling cancer for over ten years. Phyllis was the daughter of the late Amy Schroll Smith and Raymond Alfred Smith. Always proud of her New Jersey roots, she was born and raised in West Orange. Phyllis graduated West Orange High School in 1947 and Upsala College in 1951. She was a beautiful and accomplished student, having been elected Spring Queen of Upsala in 1950.

After graduating college, Phyllis married the love of her life, Ernest Frederick Peterson, with whom she went on to celebrate 66 years of wedded bliss. Ernie brought her to Portland, where they built their home, raised their family, and were valued members of the community. Phyllis had an impressive green thumb, and could often be found lovingly tending the beautiful gardens surrounding their home. She was a co-founder and past President of the Portland River Valley Garden Club and served on the Board of Directors of the Mattabeseck Audubon Society. She was also a member of the CT Horticulture Society and a Charter Member of the Portland Historical Society. Phyllis was a proud and active member of Zion Lutheran Church, where she was a past Council Member, part of the Grace Guild, a chime choir member, and a former Sunday School teacher. Ever kind and compassionate, she was always giving back to others, volunteering at the Visiting Nurses’ Association, the Food Bank, as a Brownie Leader, and at the Gildersleeve School Library.

Phyllis will be remembered for her devotion to her family, unmatched organizational skills, beautiful handwritten notes, exceptional homemade brownies and Swedish meatballs, and most of all, for the way she created special memories with those she loved—tea with friends, birding and gardening trips, playing cards, Easter egg hunts for grandkids, holiday celebrations, and more. She and Ernie traveled the country and world, and they created a second home in Chatham, Cape Cod, where they gathered their family for years of fun and countless memories. She was a friend to so many and enjoyed over forty years of gatherings with the Friday Night Group.

Phyllis’s memory will be cherished by her family: her husband Ernie; her two daughters, Ann Linnea P. Gilmour and partner Judith Gleason of Lambertville, NJ, and Martha P. and husband Jay Swanson of Portland, CT; seven grandchildren, Thomas J. Gilmour IV and wife Courtney of Easton, PA, Amy Linnea Gilmour of Robbinsville, NJ, Daniel Peterson Gilmour and wife Bevin of Roswell, GA, Dr. Christopher Elmer Swanson and wife Margaret of Jacksonville, FL, Ingrid Emelia Swanson and husband William Moss of Glastonbury, CT, Raymond William Peterson of Mansfield, CT, Lauren Nicole Peterson and husband Shawn Kerr of Walpole, MA; four great-grandchildren, Mya Rae Peterson, Clara Louise Gilmour, Callum Elmer Moss, Emelia Mae Moss; and several nieces and nephews. Phyllis was predeceased by her son, William Raymond Peterson; by two brothers-in-law, W. Arthur and J. Paul Peterson; and by two sisters-in-law, Pearle J. and Sherrill P. Peterson. Phyllis and her family are so grateful for the compassionate care she received from Dr. Robert Levy and the staff of CT Oncology Group, Dr. Ziedler and Middlesex Hospital Hospice and homecare staff, particularly Emily Blyler, and those who lovingly cared for her, Linda, Nadine, Lillian, and Maria.

Funeral services will be on Saturday, October 21st at 10:00 a.m. at Zion Lutheran Church, 183 Williams St., Portland, and burial will follow in the Swedish Cemetery. Friends may call on Friday evening, October 20th, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Doolittle Funeral Home, 14 Old Church St., Middletown. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Zion Lutheran Church Organ Fund, P.O. Box 202, Portland, CT 06480; or Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance, P.O.Box 32141, New York, NY 10087-2141; or Middlesex Hospital Hospice & Palliative Care, 28 Crescent St., Middletown, CT 06457. Messages of condolence may be sent to the family at

Previous Events





5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Doolittle Funeral Home

14 Old Church Street
Middletown, CT 06457





10:00 AM
Zion Lutheran Church

183 William St.
Portland, CT 06480

Cemetery Details


Swedish Cemetery

High Street
Portland, CT 06480


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