Phyllis Jan (Grant) Gifford was born May 8, 1936, in Blackwell, Oklahoma the oldest of three children.
Her father, A. Marshall Grant, who never missed an opportunity to tell a joke, managed the family’s Ponca City, Oklahoma Western Auto store and later was a real estate broker. Jan inherited his larger-than-life personality as well as his gift for easy humor. As a young girl growing up in Ponca City, Jan was a fearless, free spirit whose unpredictability kept both her parents and her many friends completely off-balance! Like her father, Jan had a story for every occasion and never objected to being the center of attention - - - at least when it was her idea!
Jan’s grandmother, Pearl Kistler Frankenberry, was a poet and gifted water color artist and Jan’s mother, Phyllis Frankenberry Grant, was an accomplished pianist and award-winning vocalist. Jan made the most of this legacy, gaining her own reputation as a gifted artist while still in high school and performing music throughout her life. Jan won numerous art awards and later accepted a prestigious art scholarship at Oklahoma A&M, in Stillwater, Oklahoma, later OSU.
While in college, Jan met Ralph Gifford on a blind date and was taken with his movie star looks and gentle disposition. And, proving once again that opposites do attract, the ever-practical Ralph, for reasons even he couldn’t explain, was likewise attracted to this outspoken, demonstrative artist and force of nature. They were married eight months later on February 16, 1958 in Ponca City, Oklahoma, a marriage that lasted just two months short of sixty years and was an inspiration - - - and a mystery - - - to all who knew them.
Jan and Ralph settled in Tulsa, where Ralph was an electronics specialist before entering the spring manufacturing business. Jan took wonderful care of their three children, Melany, Missy, and Blake, but never let them slow her down! She worked nights at a drive-in movie, manned the switchboard at a Tulsa motel, and worked weekends at Tulsa’s Brook Theater and later at Loew’s Delman Theatre in Dallas.
Jan’s lifelong affection for the big screen inspired her roles in rating movies for the Greater Tulsa Area PTA and writing movie reviews for a Cumberland Presbyterian Church publication, both of which enabled her attendance at numerous movie conventions where she met stars of the movie world she loved. While in Tulsa she also found time to serve for many years with the Neighbor for Neighbor organization and driving for Meals on Wheels, piling her three children into the back seat of the car so she could crisscross Tulsa serving those in need!
In 1971, Ralph and Jan moved their family to Dallas where they joined Lake Park Cumberland Presbyterian Church, now known as Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church, and played a key role in the growth and evolution of the church. Jan was a longtime choir member, served as Fellowship Committee chair for many years, and in 2002 organized the Young at Heart organization and coordinated its programming and events. She was a member of the Congregational Care Committee that assembled and distributed First Time Visitor Bags. She arranged for funeral flowers, sent cards to over forty homebound members every month, and sent crosses to newborns and children baptized in the church. Jan was a longtime member of the women’s Circle of Hope and for 22 years hosted their annual Christmas Tea in her home.
For a number of years Jan cooked at summer church camps, serving as both the resident entertainment and trouble-maker, and some of her fondest memories and friendships grew out of those summer camp years. Also, she applied her cooking skills each week for many years in the large kitchen of a downtown Dallas church that fed hundreds of people each day.
Jan was not what one would refer to as a “career person”, although soon after arriving in Dallas she worked at a preschool where she $0.75, learned Saturda that bringing a hair dryer to her class was frowned upon. In fact, Jan often said she was fired eventually from every job she held because of her tendency to become distracted. In fact, one supervisor told Jan she had the neatest piles of undone work she had ever seen! Returning to the art she loved, Jan excelled as a cover artist for Dallas’ Taylor Publishing Company and also worked on several private art commissions. She created beautiful calligraphy and graphic art, if she could just manage to finish what she started!
As an antique dealer for over 25 years she developed a love of Victorian Silver, crystal and English china, and fine vintage linens. She loved to use, and more importantly, share beautiful things and was the host for hundreds of elegant English afternoon teas, whether given for every new acquaintance, fifty of her closet friends, or perhaps someone she met at the DMV!
Again like her father, Jan never knew a stranger. In fact, her children never knew who might be joining them for dinner - - - or sleeping on their living room floor. If anyone ever appeared to be in need, especially a child, she was there to care for them regardless of cost or inconvenience. Throughout her life she showed great generosity to others, fed and clothed the homeless, took people into her home to provide love and support, and helped thousands regardless of their color, creed, or station in life. Her talent for bringing joy to the lives of others, whether through a random act of kindness or an impromptu party, was combined with a commitment to humble service, generosity, and devotion.
Jan was preceded in death by her husband, Ralph Gifford and is survived by her three children, Melany Gifford, Missy Rodgers (and husband Mike), Blake Gifford (and wife Diana) and her five grandchildren, Evan, Manny, Abby, Kelcy, and Macie who will miss her dearly and all the adventures that were so much a part of their grandmother. She is survived also by her sister, Melissa Brown of Edmond, Oklahoma, and her brother Marshall Kay Grant, of Frisco, Texas and Ponca City, Oklahoma.
Because of current restrictions a graveside service will be held for immediate family, with hopes for a celebration of her fabulous full life to be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers (which she loved!) donations can be made to the Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church “Jan & Ralph Gifford Helping Fund” at “lhpres.org” (Gifford Benevolence Fund).