As a young girl, Phyllis would never leave the house without waving to the RCMP officer parked across the street, who kept a vigilant watch on her parents, both prominent Canadian Communists. She liked to say that she earned her credentials as a Red Diaper Baby the night Paul Robeson sang her a lullaby.
Her father, Max Bailey, was a Montreal city councillor who fought for the city's downtrodden and was instrumental in the Supreme Court case that struck down Maurice Duplessis's infamous Padlock Law. Her mother, Anne, was a human-rights activist and crusader for progressive causes.
Disillusioned by Stalin, her parents left the party long before most of their colleagues. This left Phyllis abruptly cut off from her friends, who were forbidden to associate with a family who had betrayed the cause.
Yet she never forgot those early values and chose to instill them as an educator, teaching sociology for more than 30 years at Montreal's Champlain College. Her work left her a lot of free time to indulge her passion for social justice and travel, including a memorable trip to Latin America, where she marched with Subcomandante Marcos in Chiapas, Mexico.
While working as a community activist for Lyndon Johnson's ill-fated war on poverty in New York during the mid-1960s, Phyllis encountered a unique character named Rosalyn Switzen, who helped introduce the ombudsman concept to North America and fought for social innovation and change.
Together, they lobbied opinion makers for an agenda they called ombudscience that was far ahead of its time (it included solar energy and recycling). It was not unusual for Phyllis - a divorced single mother - to drag her sons Max and Jeremy to Capitol Hill, where they would corner politicians such as Ted Kennedy and Spiro Agnew before paying a late-night visit to the home of Ralph Nader.
Her friends remember Phyllis as a warm, hysterically funny companion who could tell a good dirty joke, and who was more likely to talk about the previous night's episode of Law & Order than about politics.
When Phyllis discovered she had hepatitis C 10 years ago, she stepped up her travelling to a frenetic pace, visiting far-flung corners of the world from China to Antarctica. She lived long enough to dote on her grandchildren Hannah, Emma and Dashiell. She saw her son Max become a bestselling author and Gemini-nominated filmmaker, while her son Jeremy became an accomplished musician, poet and activist.
Phyllis's legacy lives on in the thousands of students she sent into the world determined to change it.
Max Wallace is Phyllis's son.