Vel Phillips remembered and honored at memorial service

The choir sings James Cleveland’s song, “God Is,” at Vel Phillips’ memorial service (Photo by Talis Shelbourne)

When Velvalea Rogers Phillips laughed her hardest, her shoulders would shake as her mouth formed a soundless “O.”

This was just one of the memories Michael Phillips, Vel Phillips’ only surviving son, recalled at her memorial service at St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest African-American church in Wisconsin.

Phillips passed away at the age of 95 on April 17. She lived a life of community, activism and laughter, according to speakers at the service.

“When she really got going, she would hit you on the shoulder as if to say, ‘pshaw,’” her son said. “She loved to laugh; we [even] laughed when a man with a bad combover and orange skin became…

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