Phyllis E. Hechtman

Phyllis E. Hechtman of McLean, VA died on Friday, August 18th at Fairfax Hospital after a more than three decade battle against MS and more recently dementia and throat cancer. She is survived by her adoring husband Robert, her beloved son Douglas and countless friends.

Born in Brooklyn, NY on December 29, 1941, Phyllis was raised by her widowed mother, Lydia. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a BS in Physical Education. While in Brooklyn College she joined the Sigma Delta Tau sorority. Phyllis moved to California and spent a year pursuing a masters at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Before completing the masters she returned to NY and married Robert on June 22nd, 1964. Together they launched an adventure through his Foreign Service career starting in Santiago, Chile where their son Douglas was born in 1970. Later posts were in Guatemala and then Panama.

Phyllis was a PE and health instructor in DC public schools and an enthusiastic subscriber to the Washington Ballet, Signature and Shakespeare theaters. In Guatemala she helped lead the local PTA and support for the new Maya school campus. Back in the US she completed the Publishing Specialist Program at GWU, became Editorial Assistant on the”1990 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking Cessation” and later became editor of the Fairfax League of Women Voters Newsletter.

Energetic and athletic before the advance of her MS, she enjoyed taking cruises and traveling throughout the National Park system. She also enjoyed exploring local cultures, historical sites and arts and crafts throughout Latin America. Among the many places she visited were Tikal, Antigua, Quirigua, Uxmal, Merida, Machu Picchu, several volcanos, the Argentine Lake District and, of course, the Panama Canal. She made several Mayan stone rubbings that decorate their home.

Her sense of humor and love of wordplay came across in person and through her letters. She enjoyed contributing to Robert’s “Clive” theater reviews. She also enjoyed cross word puzzles for years and would often laugh at people’s malapropism and getting “mords wixed”.

In her later years Phyllis fought to maintain her beautiful disposition. Her strength of will was evident in her efforts to stay active and continued travels. In her final years, she was supported by her loyal aides, Alem Abeje and Mehert Tekle.

An extensive interview by the Foreign Affairs Oral History Program about Phyllis’ experiences overseas that reveals some of her thoughts appears in the Library of Congress website at

Memorial contributions in her name may be made to the National MS Society. The burial will be at National Memorial Park, Falls Church on Friday, 8/25 at 11am. Robert and Douglas invite family and friends to their home after the burial and on the weekend.

5 Responses to Phyllis E. Hechtman

  1. Heath Simon says:

    Doug, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your father. Your mother was a very kind. caring individual who loved life and fought until the end.

  2. Mindy Smith says:

    Doug, I didn’t have the chance to meet your mother, but knowing you she was obviously a very special lady, for she raised such a wonderful man. Words cannot express my sorrow for your loss.

  3. Benner says:

    Dear Robert and Doug: Phyllis was our special neighbor and friend. “Hi, I am your neighbor on Deer Drive and speak Spanish. I also met Ned in Chile years ago,” was how she introduced herself 40 years ago. It was the beginning of a lovely friendship, fractured at times by travel and raising kids. But Phyllis was always there to extend a hand, look after Allison, who is Doug’s age. Her friendship meant so much to us. We love you. The Benner Family, Ned, Norma, Allison, Cristopher and their families

  4. Laurie Howard Felton says:

    Doug, I was so sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. My deepest sympathy.

  5. Mike Le-Si says:

    I’m so sorry to learn the passing of Phyllis. I pray for you and Doug in this sorrowful time.

    (I’m the son of Mrs. Le-Si across your house.)

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