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Richard Vernon Phay
December 18, 1939 ~ September 29, 2021 (age 81) 81 Years Old
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Richard Vernon ‘Dick’ Phay passed away at his home in Prineville on September 29, 2021. Dick was born on December 18, 1939 in San Jose, CA to Louis and Gladys Phay. He grew up in Morgan Hill, CA with his two brothers, Will and Bob, and their sister Juanita. He married Lorelei Conlan in 1960 and attended San Jose State University and earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in Social Studies. Dick and Lorelei had a daughter who passed away as an infant, and their second daughter, Kelly Rachelle was born (August 1966) in Gilroy, CA. Dick began teaching at Green Acres Junior High School in Visalia, CA in 1966. He and Lorelei divorced in 1968. In 1970, a new young teacher named Gilda Van Keuren arrived in Visalia and the two were married on December 29, 1970 in Carson City, Nevada. In 1972, the couple moved to Hamilton, Victoria, Australia where they both taught for four years. While in Australia, the couple had two sons, Ryan Roger (November 1973) and Michael Louis (October 1976). Dick and Gilda spent their adventure in Australia traveling and connecting with family members and making many close friends. In addition to his time in the classroom, Dick wrote and published several novels for young adults while in Australia. Dick and Gilda both fell in love with the country, the culture, and the people of Australia. They made several trips back to visit over the decades. The Phays returned to the United States in December 1976 and arrived in Prineville, Oregon in the summer of 1977, where they have lived ever since. Dick taught at Crook County High School from 1977 to 1997, when he took early retirement due to his health. Dick had a passion for teaching and over a 30-year career taught Humanities, Social Studies, Drama, Psychology, and Mock Trials to thousands of junior high and high school students in three states and on two continents. But whenever he was asked what he taught, he would simply say: “Kids.” When he was a teenager, Dick was diagnosed with a deteriorative vision disease called retinitis pigmentosa. He was declared legally blind in 1983 and learned to live and even thrive with his disability. For many years, you could see Dick walking around Prineville with his white cane. Among his joys was waterskiing, an activity he fell in love with in his youth. He loved cars from a young age and continued admiring them at numerous car shows over the years, even after he’d lost his sight. He could often be found washing and waxing his 1966 Ford Galaxie convertible (even though no one would let him drive it!). Dick was a gifted public speaker who actively participated in Toastmasters for many years, winning dozens of awards and honors with the organization. He loved acting and performed in many locally-produced plays, his favorite being the role of Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Dick was a member of the Crook County Democrats, known for expressing his strong political opinions in local letters to the editor. For a number of years in the last decade, he served as a volunteer Mediator for the Crook County Circuit Court, helping people in the community work through civil disagreements. Dick was an active member of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Prineville for 44 years. Dick is survived by Gilda, his wife of 50+ years, daughter Kelly Stenmark (Kevin), sons Ryan (Petra) and Michael (Keri), and seven grandchildren (Spenser, Giordan, Emma, Caleb, Halle, Maggie, and Daisy). He was preceded in death by both parents and all three of his siblings. A memorial service will take place at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Prineville at 2:00 PM on Friday, October 8, 2021. The memorial service can also be viewed on Zoom (https://zoom.us