Cover photo for Phylis Gullickson Johnson's Obituary

Phylis Gullickson Johnson

April 6, 1921 — January 31, 2024


Phylis Gullickson Johnson was born on April 6, 1921 in St. Paul, Minnesota and passed away peacefully from cardiac heart congestion on January 31, 2024 at the age of 102 years at Agrace Hospice in Madison, Wisconsin.  She was the daughter of Zillah and Oscar Gullickson.  At seven years old she moved with her family to West Allis, WI where she attended public school and graduated from high school in 1938. She then finished a degree in social work at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1942.  A year later she married her sweet heart, Warren Johnson, who had also graduated from UW/Madison.  He worked as a mechanical engineer for Allis Chalmers in West Allis for over 40 years before retiring.

Phylis enjoyed a full life in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin where her husband Warren and she raised three children, Gregg, Doug and Kim.  She served eight years as the girl scout leader for the troop that Kim belonged to until she graduated from high school. Meanwhile, after Phylis substituted intermittently in the public grade school that Gregg, Kim and Doug attended, Phylis went back to school to obtain an additional degree in the field of elementary education while she was in her forties.  Upon her graduation, she found her true calling as a fifth grade teacher at Underwood Grade School in Wauwatosa for sixteen happy years.

 Not ones to sit idle, Phylis and Warren also opened up their home to host two high school exchange students when their children were in high school, Unel from Cyprus and Girma from Ethiopia, which afforded the family many cultural enrichments and fun.  Subsequently Phylis and Warren extended this cultural enrichment at home to include travel through Europe, Great Britain and Africa. 

Retiring from her public school teaching career at fifty nine years old, did not place Phylis in limbo for long.  Soon she signed up for a year long training class at the Milwaukee Art Center to become a docent. She spent her next twenty years interpreting their art collection to public school children in the Milwaukee area as well as to adult visitors to the Center.  As a result her extended family grew well versed with the Center’s art collection that she loved to present to its visitors.

Phylis and Warren also found time in their retirement years to build a cottage in 1978 on the lake in Vilas County where they had vacationed at the YMCA Camp Nawakwa with 3 toddlers more than twenty years previously. From 1978 and counting Phylis and Warren went on to spend 24 happy years intermittently visiting this cottage wilderness through 3 seasons of each year. Last summer was her last visit to her beloved cottage accompanied by her daughter Kim and visited by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren during the 4th July week.

Phylis is survived by her three children and two daughters-in-law; Ursula and Gregg Johnson, Jean Demopoulos and Doug Johnson, and Kim Phylis Johnson; grandchildren; Susanne Brooks (Don Kerksick), and Kim Ursula Johnson, Kali Rivas (Justin Rivas), Nick Johnson, Andrew Vane (Kate Vane), Eric Vane, Tyler Vane; great grandchildren; Fritz Brooks, Summer Kerksick, Charlie Vane, Natalie Rivas and Adrienne Rivas.

The family would like to express their appreciation for the excellent care provided to Phylis during her illness by the staff at Brookdale Madison West and Agrace Hospice, and Dr. Nancy Huang and Dr. John Phelan.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 2 located at Cress Funeral Service, 6021 University Avenue, Madison, WI.  The service will begin at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Agrace Foundation, at Agrace, 5395 E. Cheryl Parkway, Madison, WI 53711 or Porchlight Inc., 306 N. Brooks Street, Madison, WI 53715. 

 Please share your memories at

Cress Center

6021 University Ave. Madison

(608) 238-8406

Make a donation to one of the following charities in remembrance of Phylis Gullickson Johnson

Service Schedule

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Memorial Service

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

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Cress Funeral & Cremation Service - Madison - Far West

6021 University Ave
Madison, WI 53705

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