IN MEMORIAM: Charlton Yarnall Phelps

by Jane Ahrens

Charlton Yarnall Phelps (née Jacobs) died peacefully on Monday, July 9 in Fort Worth Texas at her daughter, Sophia Yarnall Payne’s home.

Charlton was born in Haverford, PA in 1926 to Sophia Yarnall and Reginald R. Jacobs. She attended the Baldwin School and graduated from Milton Academy. She briefly attended Smith College but left to marry Stowe Catlin Phelps in 1944 and they enjoyed almost seventy years of marriage until his death in 2013.

After World War II, Charlton and Stowe moved to New York with their two daughters: Sophia and Meredith Phelps Rugg (Peter).  In addition to the joy she found in raising her children, Charlton found her inner calling in working for the benefit of others; a gift she never lost. She served on the board of The Child Adoption Agency and when it merged with The Children’s Aid Society (CAS), she joined its board as well. In 1975 Charlton became the first woman President of CAS and stayed actively involved until she moved to Fort Worth in 2016. In the 1950s she was Vice President of the Board of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and Chair of its Executive Committee. She was an early supporter of death with dignity and served on the board of Concern for Dying before it merged with the Society for the Right to Die.

Throughout life, as her own family grew to include five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, Charlton continued to have a lasting influence on the people around her, filling a void they did not even know was there, and setting a standard with humor, grace, and compassion. Although she only had 12 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, scores of others called her Granny because of her love, warmth, and understanding of people. This kindness flowed from the bedrock of her faith. Indeed, over the course of her life, Charlton was nourished by – and nurtured – communities of faith who saw her as a model of commitment and love. She served on the Vestry and altar guild of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Fishers Island and she was an active member of the altar guild of St. James Church, New York City.

Charlton is survived by her two daughters, her grandchildren: Jory Payne of Denver, CO, Charlton A. Rugg (Andi) also of Denver, CO, Brinton Payne (Kelly) of Fort Worth, TX, Courtney Rugg of Aiken, SC (formerly Caroline Garrison), and Magee Payne of Greenough MT, and her great-grandchildren: Catlin Rugg, Pearson Payne, John Ellis Payne, Peter Garrison, Benjamin Garrison, Tench Rugg and Bridger Rugg.

A Service will be held Friday, July 27 at 4:00 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Fishers Island, NY. A Memorial Service will be held November 2, at 3:30 PM at the Cosmopolitan Club, 122 E. 66th St., New York. In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to The Fishers Island Sea Stretcher, Box 123, Fishers Island, NY 06390 or The Children’s Aid Society, 711 Third Avenue, Suite 700, New York, NY 10017.

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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