Obituary: Sylvia Ann Phillips-Walker

Mother, longtime Claremont elementary school teacher, beloved matriarch, volunteer

Sylvia Ann Phillips-Walker died peacefully on November 3 at the age of 77. She was surrounded by her three children and husband during her extensive hospital stay and at the time of her transition.

Sylvia was born January 16, 1943 in Charleston, West Virginia to Theodore DeWitt Phillips and Sheila King Phillips.

Both she and the man who would become her husband of 51 years, Robert Prince Walker, grew up in Institute, West Virginia. She and Robert shared a lifelong loving partnership; They attended the same elementary school, high school and college, and had been together for nearly 78 years.

They were both 1964 graduates of West Virginia State University, a historically Black college. Following graduation, she and her parents moved to Los Angeles, where she pursued her graduate school education and teaching career. In 1965 she enrolled at Woodbury College in Burbank, California, where she studied interior design.

After completing her studies at Woodbury she decided that her real passion was teaching at the elementary level. Her first position in 1966 was with Keppel Union School District in Little Rock, California. In 1967 she was hired by the Los Angeles Unified School District and began teaching at Grape Street Elementary School in the community of Watts, while continuing her graduate studies at the University of Southern California.

In 1969, she reunited with her childhood boyfriend, Mr. Walker, who lived in New York City. They were married on Christmas Day, 1969. They later had three wonderful children, Robert Prince Walker II, Ryan Phillips Walker, and Sheila Priscilla Walker-Morgan.

After their wedding, she began teaching in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. She remained until 1971, when the couple moved to California, which they had often talked about during their high school and college romance.

They settled in Claremont, and both began their teaching careers in 1972, Mr. Walker in the biology department at Claremont High School, and Mrs. Walker at Sycamore Elementary School. She later moved to Oakmont Elementary before spending the remaining 32 years until her 2004 retirement at Condit Elementary.

She received numerous accolades over the years from parents, who admired and appreciated how effectively she connected with her charges, particularly minority students and those with special needs. She always focused on supporting and nurturing her children’s special gifts.

“Sylvia loved her students and wanted to provide them with an exceptional learning experience, guiding them to become caring and successful adults,” her family shared. “When Sylvia would arrive at school, many of her students would run up and hug her, overjoyed to spend another day with her. She was so loving and compassionate. Sylvia had a unique ability to make not only her students but anyone she ever met feel special to her. She always found a way to recognize and commend their wonderful qualities.”

Upon retirement, she continued volunteering as a tutor with CLASP (Claremont After School Program). She was also an active member and an officer in several local and national service organizations, including as a charter member of the Claremont Area Links Chapter of the National Links, Inc., in her college alumni sorority (Delta Sigma Theta, Pomona chapter), and with the NAUW (National Association of  University Women) Inland Empire branch, where she served as president for four years and first vice president for one year.

The Walkers were both lifetime members of the West Virginia State University Alumni Chapter, Los Angeles.

The couple are members of Claremont United Methodist Church.

Private family services were held Friday, November 13 at the family home in Claremont.

“Our family extends our deepest appreciation to Dr. Yvonne Boyd for conducting services and spiritual guidance for our family and her longtime friendship,” her family added. “To all of our many friends, family, co-workers across the country, we thank you for your many phone calls and comforting outreach to our family.”

Her parents and brother, Theodore Phillips, Jr., preceded Mrs. Walker in death.

She is survived by her loving and devoted husband of 51 years, Robert, and their loving relationship of 77 years; their children Robert Prince Walker, II, Ryan Phillips Walker and Sheila Priscilla Walker-Morgan; son-in-law Brandon Morgan; in-laws Marseenia Walker-Marks, Glenn Walker, Dr.

Marcia Walker and Ronald Walker;

and many cousins.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider making a donation to one of the folloing organizations:   

By check to The National Association of University Women, Inland Empire branch, at P.O. Box 1388, Guasti, CA 91743; Claremont Area Links, Inc., at P.O. Box 1372, Upland, CA 91785-1372; or to Claremont After School Program at https://clasp4kids.org/donate, or by check to 858 Occidental Dr., Claremont, CA 91711.

“My dearest Sylvia,

My love for you always took my breath away.

Your loving husband,

Bob.”

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