About 650 people packed into a Mesa church Saturday to honor East Valley humanitarian Margie Ruth Frost, who died April 8 after being diagnosed with liver failure.
Mourners at the Mesa Fifth Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints included Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker and City Councilmen Kyle Jones and Mike Whalen. After opening remarks by Fifth Ward Bishop Darryl Reynolds, speaker Ben Huber offered an insight into life and death in an opening prayer.
A man stood in front of a gravestone, Huber told the congregation, looking at the dates of the person’s birth and death. The man realized the most important thing is the dash between those dates — meaning the things people do during their lives.
“Her dash was full to capacity,” Huber said.
Two of Frost’s sons, Mark and Jeffery Phillips, took turns addressing the congregation after the prayer.
“With the situation at hand, I wanted to be mad that she’s gone,” Jeffery Phillips said, often halting to contain sobs and wipe away tears. “I’m doing this wrong. My mom would have wanted me laughing and smiling.”
Frost spearheaded a campaign during the 1990s to open the East Valley Men’s Center, a transitional living facility for homeless men. She acted as director of the center and developed “tough love” policies for residents that involved sobriety, employment and saving money.
She was often described as a mother figure for center residents, cooking for them and treating them with respect.
“When Margie asked, you didn’t question,” said Lionel Swanson, who worked with Frost for 20 years.
As director of the East Valley Men’s Center, Frost was responsible for as many as 84 homeless men at once. She often took to the streets to reach out to the homeless, directing them to the center. Frost was known to look for people in need where they might be living — sometimes in the Salt River bottom.
Frost moved to Arizona from Magnolia, Ark., when she was 8 to work with her family at Power Ranch in Cave Creek. While a farmhand, Frost witnessed people living under hardship.
That influenced her eventually to devote her life to serving others. Early in her career, Frost worked as a crossing guard, an aide in the Head Start program and a high school counselor.
Frost’s family has asked that in place of gifts, donations be sent to the East Valley Men’s Center, 2345 N. Country Club Drive, Mesa, AZ 85201. Phone: (480) 610-6722.
“Of course, Momma would have converted all this into cash so we could donate it to Mesa CAN,” said Mark Phillips of the amenities at the services. “That was Momma.”