Phyllis Baskerville passed away peacefully this past week. In my 35 years on Channel 8, she may have been my favorite guest. She was not someone to be toyed with—or she was the perfect person to toy with. You decide.
I met Phyllis in 2002 after doing a live TV segment in Fortville. As I headed for my car, the spunky 75-year-old woman in her pick-up truck approached me and asked me to follow her home.
“I have somewhere else I have to go,” I told her.
“This will be worth your time,” she shot back.
Minutes later we arrived at a Pentecostal church. Entering the sanctuary was heavenly. Taking up every bit of available space were thousands of classic toys, all in mint condition, and many in the original boxes. Memories flooded back as I saw board games, wind-up toys, lunchboxes and dolls I had not seen in 50 years.
When Phyllis’s husband developed Alzheimer’s, Phyllis was overwhelmed, as many caregivers are.
“I went to a support group meeting, but that wasn’t for me,” Phyllis said. “I didn’t need someone else’s problems. I needed something else.”
That something else began with a few dolls she had, which mushroomed into so many toys that they filled several rooms. When her husband’s condition worsened, they moved from Florida to Indy to be close to her daughters, but by then the collection had become way more than a hobby.
“Oh, my God, what have I done?” Phyllis said. “My kids are gonna think I’m crazy.”
That’s when she decided to open a museum.
Phyllis purchased the then-vacant Fortville church and continued to hunt for toys, assisted by her daughters who religiously took Phyllis to garage sales, antique shows and consignment shops in search of each next piece of everyone’s childhood.
Her museum’s normal tour lasted 90 minutes, with Phyllis pointing out her favorites.
“See that O.J. Simpson board game? See that Gund doll?,” she said. “You’ll never see anything like that again.”
She often interrupted herself to demonstrate a punching nun or to set in motion Robby the Robot.
The museum is closed, and the future of Dolly Mama’s is still to be determined.