Phyllis May Wertzberger McAdoo

Phyllis May Wertzberger McAdoo passed away on Tuesday, December 22, 2020 at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Phyllis was born on December 8, 1940 in Ottawa, Kansas, the daughter of Melvon and Pearl (Lindquist) Wertzberger.

Her family moved to Lawrence when she was still a babe, and she and her two brothers grew up at 905 Arkansas Street at a time when it was still surrounded by fields.

She graduated from Lawrence High and arrived at KU as a 5’10” knockout with a big brain and a big smile. She caught her future husband’s eye as she was striding across the campus to the Pi Beta Phi house.

Phyllis was an amazing mom and approached parenting as she did most things—with a sense of humor and keeping things real. She let her kids have a shot of Bailey’s on Christmas Eve hoping they would sleep in (did not work). She let her kids stay up late to watch “Starsky and Hutch.” She proudly displayed her young son’s art project, a large two-headed snake that was more than a little bit phallic. And her advice to her teenage daughter on a dateless Friday night was, “Oh honey, high school just isn’t your time. Be grateful you aren’t peaking now.”

As a pharmacist for nearly 50 years, most of her customers trusted her more than their doctors. She moved back to Lawrence from Wichita in 1987 and bought Gibson Pharmacy. Her customers brought her pies and cakes and vegetables from their gardens. Her home phone number was on the store voice mail and her customers could call anytime night or day. And if someone could not pay for their prescriptions, she’d figure something out.

Her many friends loved her formidable strength and wicked smarts. She believed that being a friend was about showing up. She considered being called a “tough old broad” a compliment. Those close to her knew beneath her seemingly “tough” exterior she had a soft underbelly, and was one of the most thoughtful, kindest people around.

Phyllis loved a long drag on a cigarette, G&T’s with extra lime, homegrown tomatoes, Elvis singing gospel and trashy novels. She loved to cook for friends and family. Most of all, she loved to laugh, and making others laugh as well.

Survivors include her daughter, Lynne McAdoo and brother, Ken (Annette) Wertzberger.

She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother John Wertzberger and son, Chris McAdoo.

Due to Covid-19, there will not be a public service. Memorial contributions may be made in Phyllis’ name to the Ladybird Pantry (online donations at or Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.

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16 Condolences

  1. Molly on December 24, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    Perfect description of the amazing Phyllis! So smart, funny, naughty, great friend, one of a kind.

  2. Lisa Chamberlain on December 24, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    Phyz is smiling! This is a perfect description of both her kindness and her “live out loud” personality! I just love this entire family! She had me digging through the gum drops (with the forks they provide) at Hy-Vee picking out all the black ones while she was on the look-out ????. She said “they want you to take all the colors but I never do!” ???? Phyllis brought laughter to everyone!

  3. John Howard on December 25, 2020 at 11:11 am

    I knew Phillis in grade school and occasionally saw her in High school. I heard she was back in town in she returned to Lawrence and that she later was working at Hy-Vee. We were never close friends but I always remember her for who she was. I guess that was because Of her brother Kenneth who was my doctor a few times.
    Condolences to the family.

  4. Gary Blevins on December 25, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Phyllis was Phyllis. Unique, pleasant to be around, one of a kind. Enough said. Another slice of Lawrence gone. I’m a bit surprised there was no mention of The Jayhawk Plunge in her obit as she had a strong presence there. Maybe no one wanted to make any connection between the racism there which I don’t believe was a part of her and her.

  5. Sarah Hill-Nelson on December 25, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    When I think of Phyllis I think of her fantastic laugh. So fun and so funny… this describes her perfectly. She was a great mom and an asset to her community. I’ll be doing my best to take some pages from her book.

  6. Sheila Murphy Immel on December 25, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    When I think of the people that made me happy, made me laugh, I will always think of Phyllis. She truly was one-of-a-kind. A no-nonsense woman with a great sense of humor! I’m very grateful for our times together, for getting advice from a truly wise woman. She always had great books to recommend and good counsel on parenting. John and I are sending much love to Lynne, Kenny & Annette.

  7. O. NEWTON KING on December 26, 2020 at 10:56 am


  8. Carol Wilcox on December 26, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    Phyllis was a unique and special woman. Smiles, Laughter, and Quirky is what I would say. I had met her when she was at Gibson Pharmacy. She advised me and tutored me ,between the laughs and the many people that would come it to the pharmacy with questions or seeking advice about the medications. She would of course help them, and still doing what she did best. HELPING PEOPLE and the laughs that went right along with her .She WILL be missed.

  9. KakI McElhany Kahl on December 28, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    Lynne, I am beyond heartbroken at the loss of Phyllis. But I know Mom and Kise are welcoming her to the KU Basketball pep rally in Heaven….were pretty sure Dean Smith leads the band. Your mother was a great lady, with a great soul. She was a true friend and nobody every beneiftted from that more than my mom, Crummie was lucky to have her always. I can still hear your mom sigh, and sarcastically say, “uh, Crummie”. She was, and will always remain part of the fabric of our lives. We are thinking about you and wishing eternal peace on a lady we loved dearly.

  10. Pat Hubbell on December 30, 2020 at 9:10 pm

    Oh Phyllis, we had such good times dealing drugs together. I truly appreciated your company and humor.

  11. Rebecca Bell on January 1, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    That was a lovely obituary. Phyllis was indeed a unique person and important to so many people. I remember her fondly from college years at the Pi Phi house.

  12. Kelly Momsen on January 2, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    Lynne, it was a perfect obituary! It captures the essence of Phyllis. We had so many good times & laughs together-on road trips, with our Lake Group Gals & then of course there was Zeta. Phyllis was a great lady and will be missed by so many. Our thoughts are with you. Kelly & Will Momsen

  13. Brandi L Wright on January 4, 2021 at 9:37 pm

    I saw this wonderful lady alot as a teen. My grandparents, Mom, brother and myself worked at Gibsons with my mom and grandmother working in the pharmacy. They were all like family there and she was such a hoot to be around.
    My thoughts and prayers are with her family. She was one of a kind.

  14. Mary Ann Curtis on January 5, 2021 at 10:51 am

    Lynne and family, your mom sounded like a wonderful lady and someone I would have liked to have known. My sincerest sympathies.

  15. Janice Toebben on January 5, 2021 at 7:54 pm

    Loved this gal! She was so r Rao and so much fun too! Rest In Peace my friend!!

  16. Frances Heck on February 24, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    Phyllis was a fun person to be around in the Pi Phi house. My husband was from Lawrence so he knew all of her brothers as well. She also had a cousin that I was good friends with in high school in Kansas City. I am sorry she left her daughter so close to Christmas.

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