Phyllis Anscombe

July 24, 1924 ~ September 9, 2021 (age 97)


Phyllis Anscombe, 97, passed peacefully from this life on Sept. 9, 2021 in New Haven, CT.  She was born Phyllis Elaine Rapp on July 24, 1924, in Ocean City, NJ. With her parents, J. Rossiter Rapp and Orpha (Kelly), and her sister Betty Lou, she moved several times as a child, eventually settling in Pemberton NJ, where her father ran a lumber business, and farmed turkeys.  She spent holidays with extended family in Philadelphia, PA, and in the beautiful Appalachian County of Wise, VA.


Phyllis received a BA degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1946, after which she moved to Princeton NJ, taking a job in the Office of the Secretary of the University.  In 1953 Betty Lou and her husband, the noted statistician John W. Tukey, introduced her to Frank Anscombe, a young mathematician visiting from Cambridge University.  The two fell in love and married in June 1954.  They began married life in Cambridge but moved back to Princeton in 1956, and then to New Haven in 1963, where Frank founded Yale University’s Department of Statistics. Married for 47 years, they had four children.


Phyllis regarded herself as a wife and mother, but she pursued many other interests.  She volunteered her talents to Yale University, decorating the historic Dana House and serving as Program Chair of the Yale Faculty Club.  She loved quilts and other forms of folk art, and prized discoveries now reside at the Harriet Beecher Stowe museum, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Cooper Hewitt museum.  Phyllis studied the 17th and 18th century Christian symbolism of tombstones and quilts.  She wrote poetry, encouraged her kids’ extracurricular activities, and even took them deep sea fishing.  Phyllis was a devoted member of St. John’s Episcopal Church for almost 60 years.  Her “St. John’s Family” sustained her, especially in her twilight years, and she loved them dearly.


As a daughter, sister, wife, cousin, parent, grandparent, and friend, Phyllis devoted herself to those she loved.  Full of advice, experience, and humor (including jokes known as “Phillers,”) she was a counselor, friend, and cheer leader.  Her loving care for Frank as he drifted into the fog of Alzheimer’s disease proved her vow: “in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” She leaves behind her beloved children Francis (Joanne Horalek), Anthony (Barbara Triggs), Frederick (Marta Balint), and Elizabeth Valeika (Matt); her nine granddaughters, Emily, Sarah, and Catherine Valeika; Madeline, Bridget, Caroline, Lotti, Klara and Frida Anscombe; one great-granddaughter, Olivia Jouffroy; and many beloved Rapp and Kelly cousins.


Memorial donations may be made to St. John’s Episcopal Church.  A service is planned for 11:00 am Sept. 18, 2021 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Haven. The Hawley Lincoln Memorial, 424 Elm St. is in charge of arrangements. To sign the online guestbook please visit

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