Phyllis Duncan Palma went to meet her savior on September 19, 2019 at the age of 46. Phyllis had a light that shined brightly and a relentless spirit that touched many people around the world. Her family, friends, colleagues, patients, and people that crossed her path remember Phyllis as a leader, wonderful friend, person who influenced others to pursue their dreams, and most importantly a person who taught us all to live life to the fullest with energy, passion, and a smile.
Phyllis was born on June 22, 1973 in Washington, MO. She started elementary in New Haven, MO and finished in Cabool, MO before moving on to Ash Grove for junior high and high school. She was a 1991 graduate of Ash Grove High School where she played volleyball, basketball, ran track, and was active in several clubs. Many members of her graduating class remained lifelong friends.
Following high school, Phyllis relocated to Charleston, South Carolina where she worked and managed a restaurant. She then transferred to Atlanta Georgia to pursue her true passion, a career in physical therapy. Phyllis first graduated from Kennesaw State University in 2000 with a degree as an exercise specialist. She then continued her education earning her physical therapy assistant degree from Gwinnett Technical in 2003, Masters in Physical Therapy at Georgia State University in 2007 and then her Doctor in Physical Therapy from Alabama State University in 2009.
As an accomplished physical therapist, Phyllis had a love for children, spinal cord injury patients, brain injury patients, and aquatic therapy. She joined Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on the Comprehensive Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, Acute Care Program, Day Program, Advance Technology and Robotic Program and most recently served in the Seating and Positioning Department. Phyllis also played an integral role in the development of the Pediatric Spinal Cord Injury Program.
In addition to her work at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Phyllis pursued advanced certification in the aquatic physical therapy arena. Phyllis excelled in this area and received the leadership award from the American Physical Therapy Association Aquatics Section in 2017. In 2015, Phyllis opened Palma Aquatic Therapy Services. As her business expanding, she also opened Palma Adaptive Swimming Services and had an active client base at the time of her passing.
With the vast experience and knowledge Phyllis had developed, she enjoyed guest lecturing for physical therapy classes at Georgia State University, North Georgia College and State University, and Mercer University. In addition, Phyllis was proud to be published in several scientific and professional journals that she presented both on the local and national level.
She also had a passion for adaptive sports. Phyllis began volunteering with the Shepherd Smash Quad Rugby (Wheelchair Rugby) team in 2004. This led her to add being a Level 4 wheelchair rugby classifier to her list of talents. She reached Head of Classification in the United States Quad Rugby Association then eventually obtained Level 4 classifier for the International World Rugby Federation (IWRF) and Head of Classification for the IWRF Americas Zone. Phyllis’ experiences in this area had taken her around the world where she has helped progress classification in the sport of rugby and touched many lives.
Phyllis was an active member in the American Spinal Cord Injury Association (ASIA) where she contributed to the pediatric and rehabilitation committees. She was an active member of the Steel Assembly, an affiliate of ASIA focusing on pediatric spinal cord injury/dysfunction. Phyllis devotedly worked on many projects with the American Physical Therapy Association and the Physical Therapy Association of Georgia. She also belonged to the North American Brain Injury Society and the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America.
Phyllis had many loves outside of her career. Jax, her dog, was the light of her life who always waited eagerly for her at home. She eagerly shared pictures and stories about “JP’. Phyllis frequently traveled, dined, and laughed with her cherished circle of friends. Phyllis happily volunteered often with Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless as well as the Shoes 4 Kids Community Event. She loved kayaking, cycling, hiking, hosting game nights, and attending services Passion City Church.
Phyllis was preceded in death by her father, Billy Dean Duncan, Sr. She leaves behind to cherish her memory her mother, Georgianne Simmons of Bolivar, MO; two brothers: Bill Duncan and wife Cindy of Willard, MO and Jerial Duncan of Bolivar, MO; nieces: Alli and Stefani Duncan and Emily and husband Nathan Beeman of Willard, MO; great-nephew: Leeden. She is also survived by Uncles: Chris Wilson and wife Elaine, Jon Wilson and wife Sharon, and Andy Wilson. Aunts: Jeanne Ferneau and Jayne Wilson. Phyllis has many cousins as well as dear friends that will miss her beautiful laugh and smile.
Phyllis will be remembered with a memorial service to celebrate her life on Saturday September 28, 2019 at 2 pm at Sandy Springs Chapel in Atlanta Ga. We are asking that people who are coming wear a shade of blue in honor of Phyllis’ affinity for water and her accomplishments in aquatic therapy. Services will also be held at 11:00AM, Saturday, October 5, 2019 at Wilson-Griffin Funeral Home in Ash Grove, Mo.
In lieu of flowers, two funds reflecting Phyllis’ passion have been designated to honor, celebrate and forever cherish the life of Phyllis Duncan Palma.
Donations can be made to a scholarship for PT/PTA students that is being created in her name or contributions can be made to the United States Quad Rugby Association that will be designated to assist in growing classification in the sport. Contributions for the scholarship may be made out to for the Georgia Foundation for Physical Therapy and mailed to 596 Concord Road SE, Smyrna, GA 30082. Please write Phyllis Palma on the memo line. The funds will be sequestered until the scholarship details are finalized.
Contributions for quad rugby may be made out to the United States Quad Rugby Association and mailed to USQRA c/o Sid Christain, 4200 Tove Blvd, Hueytown, AL 35023. Please write Phyllis Palma name on memo line.