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Community Health Center Mourns Loss of The Reverend Jeannette J. Phillips

PEEKSKILL, NEW YORK - All are welcome to share in the Celebration of Life~ Home Going Worship Service in remembrance of the beloved Reverend Jeannette J. Phillips, on Thursday, September 21st, 2023 at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater, 1008 Brown Street in Peekskill, NY 10566; viewing 9:00 AM to 9:45 AM; Funeral Service at 10 AM.

Additionally, visitation and viewing is scheduled for the family and community at large on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, 3 PM to 6 PM at Rhodes Funeral Homes Chapel, 18 Lake Street in Newburgh, NY 12550. Professional Services entrusted to Rhodes Funeral Homes, 18 Lake Street, Newburgh, NY 12550. “Committed To Being The Very Best” Call us anytime 845-569-1233.


Reverend Jeannette J. Phillips a powerful force for change in community health care, went home to eternal rest on Tuesday September 12th,2023 surrounded by loved ones, after a lifetime of distinguished service. A remarkable human being with many roles as a Wife, Mother, Sister, Aunt, Grandma, Visionary leader, Pastor, Founding Mother, and Matriarch of a large and growing family.

Jeannette J. Phillips was born in Harlem, New York City on February 20, 1933. Daughter of the late Evelyn Sanders Aponte and Justo Aponte; Sister of Lorenzo J. Aponte; predeceased by her grandfather James Taylor and grandmother Marie Saunders. She attended the historic Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, Florida, where her academic and social engagements, including delivering an anti-Korean War graduation message, helped shape her future pursuits. Upon her graduation in 1955, Rev. Phillips accepted a job at the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in Montrose, NY where she met a man named Howard Lee Phillips on a blind date arranged by mutual friends. The courtship continued and in March 1956 they were married. Together they became passionate about increasing access to quality health care and caring for vulnerable communities. Over time, they both pursued their unique ministry calling which led them to become Pastors within the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church Christian denomination.

While working at the VA hospital and raising a family, they were approached by a member of the VA hospital to provide housing for community veterans and seniors. They readily accepted and invited them into their own home and established the Community Residence For Veterans: A Home Away From Home. The Phillips Home at 100 Smith Street in Peekskill, NY served as a safe dwelling for fifty residents, affectionately known as “The Fellas”. For some, it was a home for a lifetime. This gave Rev. Phillips a firsthand understanding of the unmet needs of residents in her community.

In 1975, Jeannette Phillips alongside three other African American founding mothers: the late Mary Woods, Willie Mae Jackson, and Pearl Woods, founded the Peekskill Area Ambulatory Health Center. The Founding mothers with long-time CEO Anne Kauffman Nolon, grew the Peekskill Health Center--now Sun River Health--into one of the largest Federally Qualified Health Center networks in the United States, serving patients across the Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island at nearly 50 sites. They responded to requests from surrounding communities to bring the same vision for accessible care to their towns and counties: that health care is a basic human right for all and not a privilege for some. The same community-led approach to growth continues for Sun River Health to this day. Rev. Phillips was always candid about the challenges of running a non-profit healthcare provider, and the constant pressure to find or create funding to meet growing patient needs that could not be covered by federal or state support—especially in the first few years of operation. “We were able to raise money with local fundraising,” she said. “We had one particular group, the ‘Soul Sisters,’ who sold dinners, pies, cakes, and whatever else to help get money into the organization. You couldn’t get more grassroots than we were.” In 2015, Peekskill Health Center was renamed The Jeannette J. Phillips Community Health Center in celebration of the 40 years since the doors opened.

She earned her Bachelor of Science with honors from Mercy College and went on to attend New York Theological Seminary, later completing four years of Conference Studies in the A.M.E. Zion Church. She was ordained as a Deacon, then an Elder in 1992, and became the pastor of the historic Woodside A.M.E. Zion Church in Stamford, Connecticut.

A faithful community advocate, Rev Phillips was always rooted and grounded in Peekskill. She served as the Associate Minister of the Park Street African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church providing leadership in a variety of ministries to the community. She embraced her life calling as a community organizer being true to her core value of civic engagement by participating in countless boards of directors and community-based organizations. This was evidenced with her lifetime membership to the Peekskill NAACP branch and mobilizing campaigns to rally around Juneteenth and Harriet Tubman celebrations.

Rev J Phillips having been married to her husband Howard for 67 years was cherished simply as Jeannette as they were truly each other’s person; they fiercely respected each other’s individuality; encouraged one another to shine in their unique calling and remained bonded together by their faith, family and mission. Reverend J is the proud matriarch of her family, which includes three daughters and two sons (Deborah, Anthony, Althea, Kenneth, and Elizabeth) a host of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, over 100 in all.

Whether you know her as Mom, Grandma, Rev J, Mother Phillips, JP, or Mrs. Phillips she carried herself as a humble yet savvy entrepreneur. Being part of the Builder Generation she knew the value of stretching a dollar; able to make bread pudding out of thin air to ensure everyone was fed and nothing went to waste. Among her many pastimes, she was keen on watching sports especially football (a NY Giants fan) who looked forward to hosting Sunday dinners and Friday night family game nights to play Scrabble or Monopoly. Without a doubt, she knew her way around the kitchen as she took pride in celebrating family events, holidays, planning home-cooked dinners with a penchant for baking. In one taste she could tell the difference between scratch cake versus box mix! She would happily exchange recipes or share baking tips. Those who were fortunate to taste her baking know full well about Mother Phillip’s infamous blonde brownies, or perhaps the marble cake with whipped cream; the cheesecake and freshly cooked applesauce that became signature treats at annual staff meetings and family gatherings.

In many instances, community fellowship and breaking bread together exemplified her servanthood leadership style. She often expressed this sentiment at home and work that we are “Blessed to Bless Others”. Being down to earth and generous kindred spirits Reverends Jeannette and Howard never had second thoughts in opening their family dining room to serve Sunday Dinners to local clergy and families. For many years she and her husband were affectionately known as Co-Laborers in Christ; a pair of “pioneer preachers” in the 21st century right here in the Hudson Valley providing pastoral care to congregants from Ossining to Beacon; Haverstraw to Hudson; Kingston to Mt. Kisco. As a faithful preacher, Mom shared a love of ministry with her husband, both respected and sought after throughout the Hudson Valley as innovative and life-changing preachers. “It is my faith that keeps me grounded,” Rev. Phillips often said. “And I believe that God equips and strengthens those who are called to serve.”

As a family, we are grateful for her love, her life, and her legacy. It is rare to witness a living legend who served tirelessly to the very day she passed away while offering words of comfort to her colleagues. We are deeply moved by the outpouring of kindness, compassion and heartfelt words in remembrance of our beloved Queen. Let us be fueled to carry on the good work in being of service to one another. May her light shine on for years and generations to come.

We will honor her memory with our actions and commitments~ surely, she has fought the good fight, finished the race, and has remained faithful…This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.

In lieu of flowers, the family invites you to consider donating; doing more good together to support Park Street AME Zion Church, Peekskill, NY. @Givelify


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