Phyllis Nordin, 1928-2013

Singer, artist made prominent sculptures in Toledo

Phyllis Nordin designed stained-glass panels for the Lucas County Courthouse celebration.
Phyllis Nordin designed stained-glass panels for the Lucas County Courthouse celebration.

Phyllis Nordin, a sculptor and vocalist whose works can be found throughout the Toledo area as well as in four states, died on Thursday in Rochester, N.Y., where she has lived for the last six years.

Mrs. Nordin, 84, who was in hospice care, died from complications of colon cancer, said her husband of 65 years, Dr. Warren A. Nordin.

Mrs. Nordin’s works in various metals, fibers, and stained glass can be found in 22 sites around the region. They range in size from very small to two stories tall.

One of her most notable works, The Gossips, depicting her two grandmothers, was in an exhibit at the Toledo Museum of Art when it was selected for a two-year international embassy tour in 1967.

Mrs. Nordin was born in St. Joseph, Mo., on Aug. 10, 1928, to Ralph and Mabel Eck. She graduated from high school in La Grange, Ill., and attended college at Wayne State University in Detroit, while her husband was serving a four-year residency in pathology at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital. She received a master’s degree in art at the University of Toledo at age 40.

She married Dr. Nordin on July 10, 1948, in La Grange. Dr. Nordin was chief pathologist and director of laboratories at Toledo Hospital for 25 years.

Mrs. Nordin had a trained singing voice and performed with the Toledo Symphony Chorale, Masterworks Chorale, and other ensembles, her husband said. In 1970 she was alto soloist for the Berlioz Requiem performed at Rosary Cathedral. She studied piano and cello.

She and her husband designed their Sylvania Township home on Tantara Drive. He built much of the furniture, and she handed the interior decorating.

Her local public installations were placed in hospitals, libraries, banks, and churches.

“Most of her works were done on commission, but some were for competitions,” her husband said.

Among her larger works was a commission by St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church on Heatherdowns Boulevard, for which she designed a 20-foot-by-11-foot cross with the figure of the Risen Christ. The altar piece, which incorporated stained-glass panels, and the church were dedicated in 1985.

She designed sculptures for Florida shopping malls in Stewart and Port Charlotte.

Christ Presbyterian Church at Sylvania Avenue and Talmadge Road commissioned her in 1982 to create This is My Beloved Son to mark its 30th anniversary.

She was commissioned by the city of Toledo to produce a work as part of its One Percent for Art program shortly after its inception in 1977. Her work The Flame, for River-East Minipark, is a 12-foot monument with flame-like openings that pays tribute to the “hard-working, close-knit families of East Toledo,” its dedication says.

She created sculptures for Toledo Hospital and Flower Hospital, and she designed a bronze sculpture of a boy with an open book for the Reynolds Corner branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, and a 7-foot bronze sculpture depicting an eternal flame for the north lawn of the Main Library downtown.

The University of Toledo commissioned her to design a fountain for its centennial. The Toledo Edison Memorial Fountain, on the north side of the Student Union, was built in 1980. It was turned into a flower bed for four years until a fund-raiser to replace rusted pipes restored it in 1997. She created a bronze piece, Reunion, for the university’s Alumni Center.

Dr. Nordin said his wife was self-taught in many areas, learning how to gas weld or use an electric arc to create the three-dimensional figures she loved.

“She was unusual, because as a woman she wasn’t cowed by skills she didn’t possess,” he said.

She briefly taught at Lourdes College, and she taught students in her studio in the basement of her Sylvania Township home.

She belonged to Epworth United Methodist Church in Toledo.

The Nordins moved to Rochester six years ago to be closer to their daughter after Mrs. Nordin developed dementia, Dr. Nordin said.

Mrs. Nordin is survived by her husband, Warren A. Nordin; daughter, Susan Vinocour; son Paul Nordin, and three grandchildren. A son, Eric, preceded her in death.

Her funeral will be at Epworth United Methodist Church at 1 p.m. Thursday. There is no visitation. Arrangements were handled by Walker Funeral Home.

Memorials are suggested to a charity of the donor’s choice.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: or 419-724-6050.