Phyllis Plevyak, who was called the “First Lady of the Mount" for Mount Saint Joseph High School, died of cancer March 3 at Brandywine Assisted Living in West Fenwick, Delaware. The longtime Catonsville resident was 95.
Born in Cuba, she was the daughter of Leonard Toole, an architect working on a Havana church, and his wife, Sadie. Her family followed his projects and moved to Tampa, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Springfield, Northampton and Boston, Massachusetts; and finally, Stamford, Connecticut, where Mrs. Plevyak graduated from Stamford High School.
She earned a diploma from the New York College of Dietetics and worked as a dietitian at Roosevelt Hospital in New York and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel before taking a position at a summer camp in Port Jervis, New York. There she met her future husband, John Plevyak, who was spending the summer as the camp cook.
The married Oct. 20, 1945, at St. John’s Church in Stamford.
The couple settled in West Baltimore, first in Irvington off Frederick Road, later on Athol Avenue, Gelston Drive and South Rolling Road in Catonsville.
Her husband spent a 59-year career at Mount Saint Joseph as a teacher, coach and athletic director.
Mrs. Plevyak and her children were active at the school. She became known as the “First Lady of the Mount” after a principal gave her that title.
After raising her family, Mrs. Plevyak taught preschool at Glen Mar Early Learning Center and Bethany Lane Baptist Church, both in Ellicott City.
“She loved working with children and was known for wearing her Winnie the Pooh costume each year on Halloween," said her granddaughter, Jaime Lennon.
A family member nominated Mrs. Plevyak for a Granny Smith Grandmother of the Year title run by the Washington state apple growers. She received its "Most Spirited Granny” award from the state’s Apple Commission.
“She was flown to Washington state and made friends with the other contestants,” said her daughter, Donna Atkinson of Millville, Delaware. “But when asked about her preference for apples, she admitted they were not her favorite. She did say she ate a little applesauce.”
Mrs. Plevyak often returned to Mount Saint Joseph High School.
“She could frequently be found in the stands of the football field, which was renamed after John Plevyak in 2008,” said her granddaughter, Jaime. “She considered the school her home away from home," even after she downsized to a condominium in Elkridge and, eventually, an assisted-living facility in West Fenwick Island.
“Being a dietitian by training, she was a very good cook,” said her daughter, Donna. “She was famous for that fudge, but she said it did not turn out so well on a humid day. She was also a great mother.”
Said her granddaughter, Jaime: “She is remembered fondly for her independence, Irish wit, and her penchant for stirring up a little trouble.”
Mrs. Plevyak returned to Mount Saint Joseph each spring for graduation to personally present an award in her husband’s name. She last made the award in 2019.
Plans for a funeral Mass at St. Joseph’s Monastery in Irvington are pending.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include a son, John Plevyak of Ocean City; three other daughters, Becky Malarkey of Selbyville, Delaware, Pam Dickerson of Elkridge and Kathy Montemorra of Odenton; 14 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 2000.