July 5, 1925 - Aug. 18, 2019
Phyllis Lay enjoyed talking with people and had a good sense of humor.
The 94-year-old Gowanda woman, who died Sunday, may be having a last laugh with those chuckling over her death notice in The Buffalo News.
The notice starts like this: "LAY - Phyllis "The Best Lay On The Rez," and gives the details on the funeral of the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation woman who raised four children, had four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, while working and later owning a small business.
"Oh, yes, that was her," funeral director Gary Wentland said of the double entendre with her name. "Ninety-four years old and she still said that whenever she came in."
"That was the way she was. She just joked around a lot," said Mrs. Lay's daughter, Marty Lay.
The former Phyllis Mae Jimerson, a member of the Seneca Nation and member of the Wolf Clan, was born on the Cattaraugus Reservation, and died at home Sunday after her health deteriorated after she fell in July.
While she was known for the saying about her name, not many people know she first started using it in the mid-1970s, Marty Lay said. When her mother was working at Marine Midland Bank as a drive-thru teller in Gowanda and Hamburg for 14 years, she ran for president of a work-related social club. As part of her nomination speech, she told her colleagues there were many people named Lay on the Cattaraugus Reservation, but she was the best Lay.
She won the race.
Her daughter said she dropped Mae from her name, because she did not want to be known as Phyllis Mae Lay.
Mrs. Lay was the first manager for the Seneca One Stop in Irving. She also was also an elections inspector for the Town of Collins for 64 years, retiring several years ago.
In 1985 Mrs. Lay and her husband, the late Maxwell C. Jr., opened their own business known as the Teepee Bed and Breakfast. After her husband died in 2009, Mrs. Lay and her daughter ran the business. It closed last fall, and reopened this year as an inn. The Gowanda Chamber of Commerce recognized the business earlier this year.
"She loved the company, she would just sit and talk and talk," Marty Lay said.
Always up for an adventure, Mrs. Lay bought her son's motorcycle when she was 50 and learned how to ride it.
She was an avid gardener and was on chase crew for a hot air balloon owner. In her younger days she enjoyed sports, including softball, horseshoes, bowling and playing pinochle. In recent years she played Words with Friends, a crossword game, on her iPad and learned to play Rummikub, which she played daily since March with her family and friends.
In addition to her daughter, she is survived by another daughter, Sherry Casey, and a son, David D.
Mrs. Lay's son, Sheldon, an Army veteran, predeceased her. She is to be inurned at Arlington National Cemetery with her husband, also an Army veteran, and next to her son.
Services will be conducted at 11 a.m. Saturday at Wentland Funeral Home, 10634 Main St., North Collins.
And what would Mrs. Lay have thought of the tagline on her death notice?
"She would have laughed," Marty Lay. "She did laugh; she and I put it together before she passed."