Let’s Cook: Phyllis and her Purple

Pink Maraschino Bars

On April 29, 2019 another person from the “Greatest Generation” left this world. Phyllis Jean Vangsnes passed away in Rugby, North Dakota. Phyllis was a great admirer of the color purple. She had adored purple from an early age, and it remained her favorite color. When Jan and I moved to Rugby, we joined the choir at First Lutheran Church and this is where we first met George and Phyllis Vangsnes. They were a couple who were devoted to promoting music in the Rugby community as well. However, it was Phyllis who traveled the purple highway with an aspiration. She had a terrific eye for shades of purple.

Little did Phyllis know that she was soon to meet another serious purple enthusiast. I cannot recall a time when I did not like purple. Some of my first Tonka trucks were a beautiful shade of deep violet. When it came time to carpet my bedroom and I was seven years old, the first sample I selected at the furniture store was purple. (However, my parents won out with a deep shade of red instead!) The school colors in Underwood were purple and white which allowed for plenty of wearing of purple.

When I showed up at choir practice in a deep purple sweater, Phyllis and I connected instantly. Over the years I heard her say to George “notice what color Chuck is wearing today, George.” He mentioned to me that whenever he did wear something purple, people would kid him that Phyllis had dressed him. George would be singing often wearing the darker shades of color but Phyllis would be wearing some wondrous shade of purple.

When someone truly admires a color like Phyllis did purple, you notice them. I can recall her wearing a fine-looking pair of suede heels in a shade of twilight purple that featured a cross over strap and stylish buckle. When she strolled about the room, it was if violets were being planted with each step. She and George were our earliest summer guests when we finished our enclosed front porch which featured violet patterned curtains, purple wicker furniture and plenty of purple glassware. It was an endless bliss being engulfed with good conversation and paths of purple.

Phyllis was a lady, her manners were polished and well presented, which included writing notes — especially thank you notes. She gave generously of her time to worthy causes in the Rugby community such as Literary Club, hospital auxiliary, Community Concert Series–just to name a few. When I presented a Rugby Lions Club fundraiser involving showcasing dishes, she was one of the first people to commit. She knew that displaying her purple dishes would benefit the Lions Eye Bank of North Dakota.

When George and Phyllis built their new home, guess what color was nominated for the bathroom fixtures? A lovely shade of lavender, of course, and other rooms featured attractive purple carpet, painted walls. Outside their home lingered lilacs and a bursting purple clematis. Phyllis enjoyed pedaling by the purple petals each spring and summer. It was a happy place to be vested in.

It was only fitting that her funeral reflect this passion for purple, and her children David, Donald and Peggy, along with their families, did so in such a tasteful manner. As I sat at her funeral and heard of her struggle with memory loss, I was reminded that the Alzheimer’s disease awareness is represented by the color purple. If we truly listen at a funeral, we can gain much. In the case of Phyllis’ funeral not only was I reminded that thinking of others through volunteering is so important, but I was visually reminded by all the purple present. We can do our part by participating in a fundraising activity on the Longest Day, June 21, to aid in the battle Alzheimer’s disease. We all know someone who has been impacted by memory loss. So let us sport some purple for the persistence to find a cure.

Pink Maraschino Bars

Phyllis brought these bars to one of our choir gatherings, and I liked them. The old fashioned oats give a chewy texture to these bars. She gave me the recipe which she received from another First Lutheran member. The sharing of recipes certainly brings joy and gladness.

Crust

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ cup butter

Filling

2 whole eggs

1 cup of brown sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup Maraschino cherries, drained and coarsely chopped

1 ¼ cup coconut

½ cup chopped pecans

Frosting

1 cup powdered sugar

½ teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons cream

2 teaspoons Maraschino juice for coloring

Mix until smooth, adding more cream if needed. Spread over cooled bars

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the crust ingredients and mix until crumbly. Press into 13×9 cake pan which has been greased. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Beat eggs, brown sugar and extract together. Combine flour and baking powder stir into the egg mixture and mix well. Add cherries, coconut and pecans. Spread evenly over the warm crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool and spread with icing.