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  • Mother Erika Takacs

Getting to Know You - An Interview with Phebe Tinker

Updated: Jun 4

Atonement Interviews


When Mother Erika suggested this assignment, it sounded both interesting and challenging. Interesting to talk to different people, including ones I didn’t know well. Challenging to try to give a sense of who they are. Perhaps the most challenging aspect was conveying in my words just how interesting the conversation turned out to be. I didn’t have an extensive list of questions. I figured they would come to mind. I did however have 2 basic questions in mind. One was suggested by one of my past French teachers. At a social gathering the French would not ask: “What is your occupation?” That was considered trying to categorize people. Rather, they would ask: What is your passion? So that was one of the questions. The other one was something that always intrigues me. Could you give me your philosophy of life in 25 words or less? And they did. - Helen Lambin

Phebe Tinker

If you don’t know Phebe Tinker, you may have very likely seen the results of her work on behalf of Church of the Atonement ,at either the Gala or afterwards on tables in Montgomery Hall. Phebe is legendary for her ability to obtain donated gifts for the silent auction that is as part of the fundraiser for outreach. She has also been a traveler in both profession and location.

Phebe was born in Stowe, Vermont, and grew up in New England. But then moved southwards to attend Washington College in Chesterfield, Maryland, founded in 1782, and one of the ten oldest colleges in the United States. This time frame seems very suitable for a New Englander. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Phebe studied to be a paralegal, and briefly worked in a law office in Philadelphia, but decided paralegal work wasn’t for her. And moved from law to theater. She started as an usher at a major theater in Baltimore at a major theater, and moved on to serving in Public Relations for Arena Players, one of the oldest African American theater companies.

In 1981 she moved to the Chicago area when she was awarded a scholarship to study for her master’s degree at Rosary College, now Dominican University, in River Forest. For twenty-two years Phebe worked for The Chicago Tribune as a Data Base Prepare Assistant. Her role included helping proofread material, format, and assign key words to stories so that they would appear in digital form on the same date as the printed article. One of the first people she met there was Clarence Page, the well-known long-time columnist, Since I’ve read him for years, I asked what he is like in person. She described him as very personable and knowledgeable. This is no surprise to anyone who has read his columns or seen as a panelist on PBS Chicago Week in Review. Phebe now lives in Evanston. She chose it, she said, because it looks like New England.

Her passion: great love of history and ideas. As well as fiction and literature. (Yes, we agreed there is a distinction.) In her words: “I love to sit in my Queen Anne chair with a book in my hands and a cat on my lap.”

As for her philosophy of life, it expanded to philosophies, all interesting, some included here. “In my life I’ve come to realize that every person has a story.” “Bloom where you’re planted.” And, from a sign at Christ University Church of Baltimore: “Each person I meet is part of my growth.”

And finally, “Be resilient and have a great sense of humor.”

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