Obituary of Phillip Dennis Burkhart
Phillip Dennis Burkhart passed away on the morning of Tuesday, September 12, 2023, at Lakeland Regional Hospital after battling cancer for over a year. Phillip was born in Searcy, Arkansas on August 2, 1951. He grew up in Coweta, Oklahoma, and graduated from Coweta High School in 1969. Phillip dearly loved his high school classmates and many are his lifelong friends who he continued to communicate with via phone calls, Facebook chats, and floral arrangements on their birthdays and holidays.
Phillip had been a florist and an interior decorator his entire life. His love of flowers and all things beautiful was instilled in him by his beloved mother Mary while he worked at her Coweta flower shop and by his Aunt Eva Exum. Miss Eugenia Wetmore, Coweta's grand dame, took Phillip under her tutelage at a young age and taught him the finer things in life such as opera, elegant entertaining, theater and they traveled extensively in the U.S.
After high school and a short stint at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK where he initially planned a career as a history teacher, Phillip changed his life direction and moved to Tulsa to work for a leading florist, Mary Murray's Flowers. Mary, her sister Margaret Audrain, and other staff members became a second family to Phillip, especially after the death of his mother in 1982. For years, Phillip helped create fabulous flower arrangements for hundreds of Tulsa's weddings, elegant parties, debutante and Philharmonic balls, and opera events. Phillip was invited to decorate for Christmas the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City by his friends Ambassador James Jones and his wife Olivia. Phillip designed the interiors of some of the finest homes in Oklahoma. His Christmas decorating ability was unmatched.
Many of his favorite customers were previous Hollywood movie stars and country music stars that had moved to Tulsa. One close friendship was with his “Uncle” Ralph Blane and his wife Emajo. Ralph co-wrote Judy Garland’s song, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” for the movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis”.
Phillip loved anything "French" and this was reflected his in decorating style and floral arrangements. Phillip loved to entertain and cooking (and eating) great food.
Later in life, Phillip moved to Winter Haven, Florida. Over a period of 15 years, he developed numerous close friendships and brought beauty and joy to so many people in this small town. Phillip leaves behind his companion of 33 years, Brad, his sister Jeanette and nieces Mary and Paula and grand nephew Bryson, his beloved cousin Loretta and her husband James. Many of his friends were his family too including Pat & Francis, Bev & Ed, Helen & Allen, Allen in Tulsa, Margaret, Janie, Marty & Carol, Michael S., Tyler, Fran, Preston, Tammy, Frances P., John & Ann, Lynn, Carrie G, Mike & Sam, Felicity, Sharon, Charlene, Bill, Bill & Norma, Russel H., Robert C., Robert & Richard, Phil in Orlando, and Diane S. The writer of this obituary may have left out a name so please know that Phillip loved you too.
Philip loved animals as much as flowers and he leaves behind his FIVE beloved rescue dogs Buddy, Brogan, Molly, Louis and Nyla and his 23-year old parrot, Ricky, as well as a driveway full of stray neighborhood cats that he fed. I’m sure Philip would appreciate any donation (money or toys, food, blankets, etc.) to the Humane Society of Polk County or Polk County Animal Control in Winter Haven.
No services are planned at this time but a celebration of life event will be planned for next winter or spring.