Martha Ellen Phelan

July 19, 1934

Martha Ellen Phelan (nee Shilts) of Orange, California passed away peacefully at home with her family by her side early Sunday morning on October 6, 2019 at the age of 85, ending her three-year battle with cancer.

Martha was born in South Bend, Indiana in 1934 the fifth of six children to Walter and Antoinette Shilts.  Through her father’s professorship and faith, her early life was centered around Notre Dame and her strong Catholic up-bringing.  After graduating from college in 1956, she traveled to Southern California to visit her sisters and, liking the sunny California weather, chose to stay.  She cashed in her ticket for the June 30, 1956 return flight to Chicago, a flight that infamously collided with another airline over the Grand Canyon, killing all passengers aboard.  While living in Los Angeles, Martha met Dan Phelan through the Catholic Alumni Club and after a brief courtship were married June 16, 1962.  They moved first to Villa Park and later to Orange to raise their five children and run the family garage door business for the next nearly 50 years.  Martha, with Dan, was very active in the Catholic Cursillo movement as well as other church activities including family retreats with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and serving for over a decade in the Holy Family bereavement ministry.  Martha found great joy in her eleven grandchildren.  She developed a very devoted prayer life especially in her later years.  She was beloved by her grandchildren as much for her gentle wisdom and heroic faith as for her humorous stories from her childhood and joyful spirit during mananitas celebrations.  She was well known for her Christmas persimmon pudding and fudge and gifts of homemade baby blankets to expectant parents. 

Martha is predeceased by her parents Walter and Antoinette, step-mother Hazel, three brothers: Reverend James Shilts, C.S.C., Thomas Shilts (Evelyn) and Joseph Shilts (Gretchen).  She is survived by her loving husband Dan Phelan, her two sisters, Mary Ann (Thomas) Getzinger and Margaret (Edward) Fleming, her five children Sharon (Vince) Salle of Corona, Carrie (Deacon William) Weeks of Tustin, Noreen Phelan of Pittsburgh, Bonnie (Michael) Beerer of Orange, and Timothy (Patricia) Phelan of Kelowna, B.C., and her eleven grandchildren: Matthew, Steven and Luke Salle; Maria, Angelica, Elise and Anthony Phelan; John Paul, Joseph and Peter Beerer; and Brendan Weeks.

Services will be:  Sunday, October 13th - Visitation with open casket viewing from 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm followed by Prayer Vigil from 7:00 to 8:30 pm at Holy Family Cathedral, 566 S. Glassell Street, Orange, CA.  Funeral Mass will be Monday, Oct. 14th at 12:10 pm at Holy Family Cathedral with reception to follow from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm at Holy Family Cathedral Parish Center, Orange, CA.


© 2019 Brown Colonial Mortuary. All Rights Reserved. Funeral Home website by CFS