Phyllis (Rattray) Daleske


Phyllis (Rattray) Daleske died on Nov. 20, a day after her 96th birthday. Known around Pagosa Springs as “The Dancer,” Phyl spent the happiest years of her life in this picturesque mountain town (“How lucky was I to move to Pagosa?!”).

Phyl grew up in Seattle, attended Goucher College in Baltimore, then returned to Seattle, where she went to secretarial school (“I had to make a living—I was a philosophy major!”). She worked as a secretary at the Seattle Athletic Club and the University of Washington School of Economics.

In the late 1950s, she moved to San Francisco (“just for the hell of it”), where she lived as a single gal in a great apartment in a “beatnicky” area. It was in SF that she discovered the Unitarian church, which became her lifelong beloved community, giving her a much-needed “something to be connected to.”

In 1960 she married Ed Daleske, and they moved to Portola Valley, Calif., where they had two daughters, Sarah and Liz. In 1970 the family moved to suburban Kansas City, where Phyl was happy to once again find a Unitarian church. That church “saved her life” in relatively conservative Kansas in the ’70s, introducing her to people she could relate to, many of whom became lifelong friends. Also in KC she volunteered for the county mental health association before being hired to run a transitional living home and later becoming a caseworker.

When she retired in 1992, Phyl moved to Pagosa Springs (“a miraculous place”) and lived here for the rest of her life. She embraced small-town living, developed a circle of devoted friends and enjoyed running into acquaintances and future friends wherever she went.

She helped start the San Juan Outdoor Club and the Pagosa Arts Council, volunteered at the farmers market and more. But most important to her, Phyl was one of the founders of the Pagosa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Growing up “with morality but not religion,” she connected to UU’s logic and lack of dogma, appreciating the setting where she “could relate in a reasonable way to people who were on the same track.”

More recently, she renewed her love of live music and discovered a new passion: dancing. She spent many an evening listening to music at local venues (“in Pagosa, for crap’s sake”) and dancing along to her favorite bands.

Phyl made her own choices till the end (“It’s been a good life, why not get out while you can?”), making doctors, nurses, and Sarah and Liz laugh out loud with her often-unintentional humor (“I’m on my way out!”).

She was out dancing 10 days before she died (“Isn’t that a good way to go?”).

Phyl also had a much-loved son-in-law, Alan Barlow, and two beautiful and accomplished granddaughters, Lilly and Greer.

The family is planning a party in the summer to celebrate Phyl’s life with her friends in Pagosa. If you’d like to be notified of details, please send a note to Sarah at

If you’d like to give a gift in Phyl’s memory, she would appreciate donations to the Pagosa UU Fellowship Growth Fund (P.O. Box 5984, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147;