STEWART'S SHOPS LEADER DIES

Phyllis "Philly" Dake, 85, was also generous donor to various causes

TIM O'BRIEN
Section: Business,  Page: C1

Date: Thursday, May 31, 2012

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Phyllis "Philly" Dake, a key leader of the Stewart's Shops convenience stores her husband helped found, died Wednesday after a battle with Huntington's disease. She was 85.


Stewart's credits Dake with the idea to allow customers to make their own sundaes in 1947. The company's Philly Vanilla ice cream is named after her.


Dake and her husband, Charles, ran Saratoga Dairy. Charles and his brother Bill later joined together to create Stewart's Shops Corp., and Phyllis Dake became executive vice president and a key leader for 50 years.


"She taught us a lot of things, from how to serve ice cream to how to serve our communities," said spokesman Tom Mailey.


Dake was known for her contributions to a wide array of causes: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Hospital, WMHT, Albany Medical Center, The Saratoga YMCA, Cornell University, Camp Chingachgook, the University Foundation at Albany, The Adirondack Girl Scout Council and Siena College.


Dake helped start SPAC in 1966, served as founder of its fundraising arm, the Action Council, and on the board of directors.


"Her leadership helped guide SPAC forward over the course of four decades," said Marcia White, president and executive director. "Her financial generosity to SPAC has been unparalleled."


White visited Dake recently and the two reviewed photos from last year, when Dake was added to SPAC's walk of fame.


"There are very few women you ever meet in your lifetime that exemplify the strength and spirit Philly Dake had," she said. "Philly lived an incredible life because it was all about making sure others lived an incredible life too."


Joel Reed, executive director of the Saratoga County Arts Council, said Dake didn't seek attention for her giving.


"She wasn't doing it for the recognition or for the social participation," he said. "It was because she believed in an organization. She'll be missed by Saratoga Arts and many, many other organizations in town. She had a seemingly endless generosity. Philly helped set the tone and the culture for how a successful organization like Stewart's could be involved in the community."


Elizabeth Pitcairn, president and artistic director of Luzerne Music Center, is also a violinist who was a friend of Dake's.


Each summer, 200 students ages 11 to 18 travel to the Adirondacks camp. Dake's contributions enabled its concert lodge to be renovated and provided scholarships to students, Pitcairn said.


"She had a 30-year relationship with the Luzerne Music Center," she said. "She loved the camp and had been our biggest benefactor."


Pitcairn called Monday to say she planned to visit the next day. Told Dake had taken a turn for the worse, she rushed to be with her. Pitcairn played three pieces and then held Dake's hand. She recently completed a DVD of a concert given last year in Dake's honor and was glad to get it to her to see before she died.


Dake's generosity helped the children of Stewart's employees to afford college. Called the Make Your Own Scholarship program, her fund has given almost $2 million to 211 children since 1999.


In 2002 she funded the Phyllis E. Dake Foundation, dedicated to supporting a host of local charities. She created a second foundation with a third of her estate to benefit the community for years to come.


A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Friday, June 8, at Bethesda Episcopal Church in Saratoga Springs.


tobrien@timesunion.com - 518-454-5092 - @timobrientu