Gertrude Phenicie, 100

Gertrude Elizabeth Phenicie, 100, of Constantine, peacefully passed away at Thurston Woods Village in Sturgis on Monday, August 11, 2014. Gertrude lived independently in the home she and her late husband, Walter, purchased 70 years ago until the last few months. Born in Ann Arbor on December 21, 1913, she is the daughter of Silas and Alma Emmons of Fort Recovery, OH. Gertrude married Walter Stephen Phenicie on October, 15, 1936 in Ogden Center, MI.
After an early stint in the insurance business, Walt and Gertrude ventured into retail, opening Phenicie’s 5 and 10 Cent Store in downtown Constantine in 1944. The store was a popular destination (best known for its old-fashioned candy case) until Gertrude closed the store in 1979 after Walt’s death in 1974. She was 66 years old at the time, but retirement was never in the equation. Soon after, she began a second 27-year career with the St. Joseph County Commission on Aging. Gertrude managed and worked at the Constantine and White Pigeon meal sites. Upon her official retirement at 94 years old in 2008, the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Jennifer Granholm presented her with a special tribute acknowledging her many contributions and “exceptional dedication to the seniors of St. Joseph County.” At the time, she was the oldest public employee in Michigan. Other accolades include Constantine Jaycees’ Citizen of the Year (1985); and Constantine Excellence Award (2006) in recognition of many years of service to the community, including her and Walt’s efforts to help install lights at Sweetland Stadium. An active member of the First Congregational Church of Constantine, she was the organist for many decades. She also was a member of the Order of Eastern Star; Meeks Mill Garden Club; Lifetime member of the State of Michigan Garden Club; Girl Scout Leader; and a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow. Her life’s pleasures included her gardens, birds, knitting, and her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Gertrude is survived by her brother LeRoy Emmons of Archibold, OH; son, Dale Phenicie of Peachtree City, GA; and daughter Barbara (Robert) Gray of Sturgis; her grandchildren Kristy (Jerry) Barkley of Sturgis, Jennifer Phenicie of Kalamazoo, Kevin Gray of Lansing, Mark (Lisa) Phenicie of Cullman, AL, and Jon Phenicie of Cumming, GA.; eight great grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, parents, four brothers, one sister;  one daughter in-law (Barbara Jean Phenicie), and one great grandson.
Visitation is from 3 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, August 14, at the Eley Funeral Home, 280 S. Washington Street, Constantine where services are Friday at 11 a.m.,  with Pastor Kathy Schuen officiating. Internment will be in Constantine Township Cemetery.  Memorial contribuitions may be directed to the Fist Congregational Church or to St. Joseph County Commission on Aging. Online messages may be left at

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