EVANGELIST PHYLLIS ARLENE MAYES (née Riles) was born on June 4, 1940 in Newark, New Jersey to the late David and Mary Riles. Affectionately known as “Phyll” to family and friends, she was a devoted wife and loving mom who loved the Lord. Evangelist Mayes was called home to be with the Lord on Friday, July 24, 2020.
Phyllis received her formal education through the Newark Public School System. She graduated from Newark’s Central High School in 1958.
Phyllis would jokingly tell the story of her Daddy refusing to buy her first pair of trendy shoes, which led to her applying to her first job as a hospitality staff at St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark. She would keep this job throughout high school and a few years beyond.
At the age of fifteen, she met the love of her life— Charles E. Mayes. After seeing him at the High Street Y, they courted for four years. Charles and Phyllis united in marriage on October 3, 1959 at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark. Their union would produce three sons. Their first son, Charles E. Mayes III, was born February 1960. Their second son, Craig S. Mayes, was born April 1962. Their third son, Dennis L. Mayes, was born September 1963. After the 1967 Newark riots, Charles and Phyllis decided to move their young family to Linden, New Jersey where they have remained for the past fifty-three years.
No stranger to hard work, Phyllis returned to the work force holding several jobs-- a kitchen staff aide at School No. 5 in Linden, secretary at Union Carbide, and a teacher at Rahway Day Care. Due to her passion for youth, Phyllis chose a seventeen-year long career as a special needs paraprofessional within the Linden Public School system. She touched the lives of hundreds of students until her retirement in December 2005.
While career and family were pillars of Phyllis’ life, her relationship with Jesus Christ held the utmost importance to her. She often recounted the events that led her to Christ. Her dear friend, Betty Jean Samuels, invited her to attend Sunday morning service at Mount Teman A.M.E. Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Phyllis would accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior on June 15, 1973 under the leadership of Reverend Bert. Phyllis remained at Mount Teman A.M.E Church for over twenty-five years. During her time at Mt. Teman, Phyllis accepted the call to preach and would later obtain her Evangelist license. She graduated from Eastern Bible Institute in 1991. Phyllis served as a missionary, class leader, and stewardess. She held a strong passion for mission work. Her mission work included: juvenile youth houses, teen shelters, homeless population, prisons, and other various outreach programs. Phyllis would later decide to move on and join St. James A.M.E Church in Newark, NJ under the leadership of Rev. Dr. William Watley, where she continued to serve as a missionary, class leader, and evangelist until her passing.
Phyllis’ commitment to youth did not only exist in her church life, but also within her personal family life. In 1997, Phyllis and Charles became foster parents to their great niece, Shanice, who they raised until adulthood.
In 2018, Phyllis became a breast cancer survivor. As a result, she would join the Sisters Network of Essex County. She served as a trustee on the Linden Housing Authority.
Phyllis led a full, vivacious life. She enjoyed laughter, reading the Bible, going to church, talking on the telephone, and watching Chicago PD. Shopping, eating out with girlfriends, and spending time with family is some of Phyllis’ favorite pastimes as she was a social butterfly. Her signature style of beautiful hats and colorful suits made her stand out in any room she entered. A known prayer warrior and praise worshipper, Phyllis was known for praising God wherever the spirit would strike. While she is no longer physically among us, we rest assured that knowing that her faith and works here on earth has her seated with the Lord.
She preceded death by her parents, David and Mary Riles; brother, William Riles; daughter-in-law, Terry Mayes; and grandson, Chuckie Mayes.
She leaves behind to treasure her memory: Loving husband of 65 years, Charles E. Mayes; Sons: Charles E. Mayes III (wife, Norlisa Mayes), Craig S. Mayes, and Dennis L. Mayes (wife, Arlyn Mayes), foster daughter: Shanice Ennis (husband, Jon-Michael); grandchildren: Patrice West (husband, Chip), Dennis “Dee-Jay” Mayes Jr., Michael J. Mayes, Jessica Mayes, Amber Mayes, and Ryan Sampson; great-grandchildren: David Mayes, Gwen Mayes, Elias Jayden Mayes, Zoe West, and Essaiah Justice Mayes; childhood friends: Phyllis Jackson and Lillian Evans; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, spiritual friends in Christ, and longtime girlfriends.
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