Seattle Times May 10, 1990
The Seattle arts and education community is mourning the loss of a leading patron and board member, Patricia Stewart Phelps, who died Monday of pneumonia. ``Patty Phelps' greatest love was Pacific Northwest Ballet School,'' said PNB co-artistic director Francia Russell. Mrs. Phelps, with her husband, Sheffield, was a founding board member and trustee emeritus of PNB. ``Patty bears credit for what we are today, and what we are in the future,'' Russell said. ``The exuberance of the ballet and of the dancers performing in it are offered as a fitting tribute to the boundless energy and unfailing devotion of Sheffield and Patty, without whom there would be no Pacific Northwest Ballet,'' Russell wrote in a program note in 1988, when PNB staged George Balanchine's ballet ``Rubies'' as a 40th-wedding anniversary tribute to the Phelpses. Mrs. Phelps ``was a beloved, revered personal friend as well as a friend of the ballet organization,'' Russell said. She worked on behalf of a dozen different art and cultural groups, including the prestigious ``Committee of 33'' working for beautification of the community. Sheffield and Mrs. Phelps in 1989 earned the Governor's Arts Award for outstanding involvement in the arts in the Pacific Northwest. Mrs. Phelps was known to call up reporters and others working for the arts and the good of the community, and thank and encourage them in their efforts. ``I think she is best remembered by all her friends,'' said Mrs. T. Evans Wyckoff, a friend who worked with Mrs. Phelps on the Committee of 33 group and remembers her ``as someone with a great sense of humor and a razor-sharp wit. Her mind was formidable,'' said her daughter, Cynthia Lea Phelps. ``Her interests were incredibly wide-ranging. She was as interested sometimes in the internal workings of a car engine as much as in how the ballet school was doing. She would completely focus on something that got her attention and be teaching it five minutes later!'' Born in Spokane in 1922, she graduated from Vassar College in 1942. She was a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle during World War II and moved to Seattle in 1946. Her civic involvements were wide-ranging and numerous, focusing on education and the arts. She served on the Seattle Opera Board from 1972 to 1978. She joined PNB board in 1974 as a founding member and was a member or a trustee emeritus since that time. Other board memberships included the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Women's Guild of Seattle Art Museum, PONCHO, Seattle Junior League, Factory of Visual Arts, Friends of the Crafts, Seattle Civic Center Foundation, and Achievement Rewards for College Scientists. She also served on the board of the Asian Arts Council, and was a member of Seattle Garden Club and the Society of Colonial Dames of Washington. She represented Washington on the National Council of alumnae of Vassar College, and belonged to Seattle Golf Club and Seattle Tennis Club. She established the Pacific Northwest Ballet School Scholarship Fund and personally contributed time and money. She and her husband also set up the Sheffield and Patricia Phelps Fund for scholarships at the Bush School. In addition to her husband and daughter, survivors include another daughter, Nina Phelps Gorny, a son, R. Stewart Phelps, and three grandchildren; her stepmother, Marka Webb Stewart; her brother, Philip Battell Stewart, and sister, Cynthia Stewart Kaiser. Private services have been held. The family suggests remembrances to the Phelps Fund at the Bush School or the Phelps Scholarship Endowment Fund at Pacific Northwest Ballet.