Mary Virginia Nickels, a longtime resident of Silver City, NM passed away peacefully on the 8th of June 2020. Mary was born in Evanston, Illinois on Halloween in 1942. The Nickels family soon moved to Carrizozo, NM where Mary grew up on a small ranch. Her father, Bill, ran a hardware store in town. Pictures of that period captured Mary atop a horse, usually riding bareback. She always loved horses and had a favorite cat throughout her life.
Mary moved to Silver City for her senior year of high school and graduated from Western High. Like both of her parents, she was musically gifted and an avid flute player. She enjoyed playing in the band. It was music that brought Mary and Larry Phifer together. Larry played clarinet, and the couple was soon making music and were married. During the early days of their marriage, Mary owned and operated a Snappy Mart on Highway 180 East.
After she sold the Snappy Mart, she worked at Silver Rexall Drug as the cosmetician. During that period, she became a Columnist for the Silver City Daily Press. Her post was titled, “Welcome To My World.” Her writings were about enhancing a woman’s positive self-image, and she leveraged cosmetics and fashion as her building blocks. Mary later became a Deputy Sheriff in Grant County. Once, while escorting a prisoner from Silver City to Gallup, NM, Mary, who had recently undergone surgery, talked down an angry prisoner well above her 5’2” stature. She used kind words and compassion to calm the person, who was soon trading stories instead of blows.
Mary was a working mother, community-oriented, and a member of the Eastern Star. She continued in business as an owner and manager of Howell Drug. She then moved into property management which took her throughout New Mexico, Texas, California, and Arizona. She retired and moved from Prescott, AZ back to Silver City.
Mary will be remembered for her sharp wit, her love of the southwest and her cats. She is survived by her children, Virginia (Gini) Phifer Borst of Phoenix, AZ, her son Jerald (Jerry) Phifer of Ft. Bragg, NC, and a granddaughter.
May she rest in eternal peace. Services on hold due to Covid-19.
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