Philma Evans Shillinglaw Cimorelli, age 72, of North Charleston, SC passed away peacefully at her home on Sunday, September 17, 2023 with her husband Nick holding her hand at the end and surrounded by her family. Philma was predeceased by her father Dr. Phillip Shillinglaw, sister Phyllis, and brother Ormand. She is survived by husband Nick, sons Ben and Chris, mother Grace, sisters Jamie, Renee, Paula and Monique and brothers Tracy, John Mark and Chris.
Philma was born 2.5 months premature on April 16, 1951 to Phillip and Grace Shillinglaw in Aurora Illinois. Her parents were travelling across the country to her father’s army base when her mother began experiencing stomach pains. They stopped at a hospital for a checkup and a little while later the nurse came out to congratulate her father that he had a daughter. He was shocked and replied, “I didn’t come here for a daughter, I came here for a checkup.” So began Philma’s life journey. Philma wasn’t expected to survive but as we saw at the end of her life, she is a fighter. After four months in the neonatal care unit, her parents brought her home. After her father’s stint with the Army was over, Philma spent several wonderful years living in downtown Charleston while her father attended Medical School. She loved to walk the beautiful historic streets, splash in the mud puddles, and spend hours in the library and museums. The growing family moved to St. Stephens, where Dr. Shillinglaw started a medical practice. Philma was the eldest of nine children. She would want to acknowledge the wonderful part that Ms. Ruthie, the beloved family housekeeper, played in raising her and her siblings. Her parents bought her a grand piano after which her musical career flourished and Philma demonstrated a true love of music and a unique gift for piano performance and a beautiful soprano voice. After graduating from St. Stephens High School in 1969, she studied music at Converse College.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1973, she taught in various schools in the Charleston area for the next 10 years. She also worked part time playing the piano and organ for various church services. While playing the organ for the Naval Station Charleston Chapel, she met her husband, Nick Cimorelli, who was a LTJG in the Navy stationed on the base. Philma and Nick were both avid long-distance runners, so their first date was a Charleston road race. Over the next several months, their relationship deepened and Philma led Nick to a much deeper understanding of the Christian faith and the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Nick proposed to Philma at Charlestown Landing and they were married on November 26, 1983 at the Chapel where they met.
In 1984, they travelled to California for a Navy School and then enjoyed a 2nd honeymoon during which they took three weeks to drive up and down California from San Diego to San Francisco, skiing and ice skating and then across the country through many national parks and finally to Quantico Marine Corp Base in Virginia. Their oldest son, Ben, was born there. In 1986, they travelled to the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California where Philma and Ben enjoyed all that the
area had to offer and Dad joined them on hikes in the redwood forest and trips to the beach and wonderful dinners at Chef Lee’s restaurant. In 1990, Nick was transferred to the Naval Observatory, Washington DC where Chris was born in 1991. Philma was a devoted mother to her two wonderful boys, and she loved them with all her heart. She used her musical talents to sing in church choirs and was the pianist for two church plantings in California and Virginia. The family returned to Charleston during the Naval Station closure from 1993 – 1996. Nick retired from the Navy in 1997 and Philma and the boys moved for short stints to NJ, Duke University, and then permanently back to Charleston where Nick worked for CSU for the next 25 years. In all her travels, Philma never knew a stranger and had a unique gift of getting to know people on a deep and personal level. Her friends loved and trusted her for that. Even during her hospital stays, she encouraged the nurses and staff and word quickly spread through the hospital of this remarkable women who cared deeply for them.
Philma was diagnosed with cancer late in 2019 and fought it hard for four years. Oral chemo and God’s grace allowed her to come back from near death to a remission of sorts, during which she was able to develop much closer and deeper relationships with her brothers and sisters. She showed all those close to her how to live a life of grace and gratitude while suffering and battling through her illness for many years. Philma loved learning and studying all her life, be it the Scriptures or during her last two years, she enjoyed listening to numerous podcasts and researching countless things to keep her mind sharp. She frequently sat at her piano and composed original music as her spirit led her. She spoke frequently with her boys to encourage them like only a mother can do. Many thanks go to her brothers and sisters for their encouraging visits. Special thanks go to Renee, who was there for us at the drop of a hat if we ever needed help with anything, and to Paula, who allowed Philma to live with her for three weeks in the summer of 2022 where she enjoyed her “mountaintop experience” with her dear little sister, who was more like a daughter to her. Her entire family blessed Philma and her boys (including Nick) with much love and more food than we could possibly eat. Philma will be dearly missed by her family and all that knew her.
Services will be held at Simplicity Lowcountry on Friday, September 29, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to either the Low Country Pregnancy Center, Project Ultrasound, or the Low Country Food Bank.
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A Memorial Tree was planted for Philma
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Simplicity LowCountry Cremation & Burial Services Inc | North Charleston