Phyllis Pond's 35 years in the General Assembly made her the longest-serving woman ever in the state House of Representatives, but the length of that tenure wasn't the point, speakers at her funeral Friday said.
Her persistently caring work to improve the lives of Hoosiers was only the most public expression of an intense affection for people that shaped her entire life, recalled her pastor, the Rev. Scott A. Zeckzer of Emanuel Lutheran Church in New Haven.
Even near the end of her life, when she was considerably weakened, she peppered visitors with questions about their lives and their loved ones, he said. She would often ask them, “Is there anything I can do to help?,” Zeckzer recalled.
Pond, 82, died on Sunday. Pond, who was first elected to the state legislature in 1978, had pulmonary fibrosis and required an oxygen machine. She had submitted her letter of resignation to Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma on Aug. 30, with an effective resignation date of Oct. 15, citing her illness. Pond represented District 85, which includes the northeast portion of Allen County, and served on the powerful Ways and Means and Judiciary committees.
“It really wasn't the longevity of her service that stood out; it was the quality of her service that made its mark,” said state Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne. He prodded the mourners to laughter when he observed, “She was about the most difficult person to say 'No' to I ever met.”
She used that soft clout to help her fellow Hoosiers, Long noted, never more memorably than when she successfully pressed for smaller class sizes in public schools.
“She was a true friend to the people of Allen County and to the people of Indiana,” Long said. “She was my friend, and I'm really going to miss her.”
Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, who served one term in the House, said of Pond, “Though she was small in stature, Phyllis walked with large footprints at the Statehouse.”
Pond served almost as long in the Statehouse as she taught. She taught for 41 years, 37 of them at New Haven Elementary School.
After the funeral, Pond was buried in Warren, near the farm where she lived when she was growing up.
A caucus to fill Pond's seat in the legislature will be held Oct. 8 at Allen County Republican Headquarters. Candidates must declare their intentions to run to the party by Oct. 4.