In Austria, it was liebe. In Greece, it was agápi. In Italy, it was amore.
They would have celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary this year, but the novel coronavirus robbed them of the chance, according to their family. They died a week apart, shortly after an outbreak was reported at their assisted-living facility in Northern Virginia. Stanley, 92, died April 29. Phyllis, 93, died May 6.
Although neither was tested, family members said they were both experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus and have attributed their deaths to the pandemic.
“They would still be alive today if not for the coronavirus,” said their son, Jim Kylis. “I know that in my heart.”
Born in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1927, Stanley joined the Navy near the end of World War II at the age of 17. Following the war, he attended the University of California at Los Angeles, where he studied political science. But shortly after graduating, he was drafted by the Army to serve in the Korean War.
“He used to boast that he was one of the few people who went through both Navy boot camp and Army basic training,” Jim Kylis said.
Phyllis Sullivan was born in 1927 in Anaconda, Mont., but moved when she was 3 to Southern California shortly after her mother’s death. A natural-born caretaker, she became a registered nurse and joined United Airlines as a stewardess in 1950 — barely meeting the height requirement at 5-foot-2.
Her family said she dreamed of seeing the Hawaiian Islands. But her travel plans were cut short — by Stanley.
“My father’s mother said, ‘Listen, Phyllis is going to meet another man on an airplane. You better propose to her,’ ” the couple’s son said. “So that’s what he did.”
Although the proposal disqualified Phyllis from working at United Airlines, where being a single woman was a prerequisite for the job, she eventually got her dream trip to Hawaii.
The couple married in 1951 and had three children: Jim, Kathy and Cindy.
After being discharged from the Army, Stanley became a Foreign Service officer and spent much of his career stationed around the world in places including Greece and Italy. Phyllis was the constant by his side in unfamiliar places.
A polyglot, Stanley had a talent for language and a habit of quoting Greek philosophers at the dinner table — in Greek. A favorite, according to his family, was “Pan metron ariston.” Everything in moderation.
Both children of the Great Depression, the couple lived this axiom.
“I think it was his philosophy in life,” said their daughter Kathy Moore. “It was the same with anything you do in life — don’t overdo it.”
When the family moved back to the United States, they bought a modest house on five acres in Vienna, Va., where they raised their children, a stable of horses, a German shepherd named Rip, a toy poodle named Muffin and a number of cats.
“My father was a nature nut, an animal lover,” Jim Kylis said. “Especially wild animals.” Stanley was known to leave cracked corn out for the deer and bowls of dog food for the raccoons. Once, he even convinced a local vet to give him medicine so he could nurse a mange-ridden fox back to health.
Phyllis, who worked as a visiting nurse for Inova Home Health in Fairfax County, was also the resident caretaker of their neighborhood. She would often make house calls to friends and neighbors after hours.
“Phyllis had a smile in her voice,” said her friend Betty Kilgallen. “She was an upbeat person.”
Above all, the couple shared a lifelong bond and a laser focus on their family, becoming grandparents to seven.
“Their life revolved around us, and making things the best they could for us,” Moore said.
In February, they became great-grandparents to a baby girl. Although they never had a chance to meet her, nurses found Phyllis clutching a picture of her great-granddaughter the night before she died.
“Family was their core,” said Nancy Kylis, the couple’s daughter-in-law. “They had a sense of keeping their family together . . . and they were in it for the long haul.”