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Celebrating the Life of Linda Phillips: Community Members Reflect on the Impact of Nuçi’s Space

Linda Phillips. Credit: Mike White.

On Oct. 9 from 3–9 p.m., Nuçi’s Space will host a celebration of the life of its founder, Linda Phillips, who lost her year-long battle with pancreatic cancer earlier this year.

After living through her son Nuçi’s battle with crippling depression and enduring the overwhelming darkness that accompanied his death by suicide on Thanksgiving Day 1996, she decided to turn her grief into a mission to alleviate others’ pain. Her dream radiates through the organization she founded. Nuçi’s Space has been a part of the cultural fabric of Athens for more than two decades, and has done immeasurable good for not only our music and arts scene, but our entire community. 

The Nuçi’s Space staff have compiled memories and testimonials to share the nonprofit’s history and to help illustrate the impact Linda has made in the lives of musicians during the past two decades and the generations to follow. Visit to read additional contributions.

David Barbe: I met Linda in about the worst possible circumstances. She called me on Thanksgiving morning 1996 to ask me if I had seen Nuçi, since he had not come home as expected the night before. She picked me to call because I was one of his few friends whose last name she knew, and looked me up in the phone book. We had never met before. I offered to go over to his apartment and look around. When he didn’t come to the door or answer his phone, I called her back, and she and Pierre drove up and met me at Nuçi’s apartment, where we were soon faced with the tragedy of his suicide. It was emotionally devastating. Our shared experience that day became one of the bonds of what would become a long friendship.  

A month or so later, Linda called me and had an idea. A big one. She wanted to do something that would help other people like Nuçi, creative people struggling with depression and having suicidal thoughts; people who felt they had no place to turn. She was also appalled at the condition of the rehearsal spaces used by Nuçi and his bandmates. She wanted to create a place that did it all, offering help to those in need and providing resources for independent musicians. Her idea became Nuçi’s Space. 

Bob Sleppy: (October 1999) I pushed through the double doors of the 40 Watt and saw David Barbe and Daniel Hutchens on stage performing. The club was hosting a benefit for Nuçi’s Space. While waiting at the bar an elaborate display near the coat-check caught my eye. Having lost a close friend to suicide in 1992, the display had a profound effect on me.  As I learned more about Nuçi’s story and Linda’s plans for Nuçi’s Space I began to see myself, my friends and fellow musicians within her vision. Nuçi’s Space was going to be much more than just a rehearsal space. Excited about what I had just discovered, I took a piece of literature with an email address on it before I left the club. The email address belonged to Linda Phillips. My life would be forever changed.

Jane Peach: Linda spoke at a Family Counseling Service staff meeting in early 2000. Her vision, passion and genuineness were moving and inspiring. So many came through my office, after first a late-night call to Linda, who was always available to calmly and compassionately listen and be fully present.

Brian Smith: I am so thankful for Linda. In the early days of Nuçi’s Space, I had one of my first severe episodes dealing with my bipolar disorder. As a musician, I didn’t have money to afford counseling or medication and, as a newer Athenian, I wasn’t sure where to go or who to turn to. I went to Nuçi’s Space because I heard they offered help. Linda helped me get set up with counseling services through Family Counseling Center of Athens, and also helped me find a psychiatrist to get the medication I needed at the time and at an affordable rate. She called me several times throughout the experience and offered her kindness and encouragement and helped push me forward through the process. I owe her such a tremendous debt of gratitude. 

Patterson Hood: It is nearly impossible to capture the impact Linda Phillips has had on my life in a few mere words. I first met her sometime around the summer of 2000… Around that same time, a friend of mine died of suicide, and his girlfriend Rebecca, who was also a friend of mine, was in a very dark place. Linda personally helped guide Rebecca through the darkest hours of her life and away from her own thoughts of suicide. A year or so later, we began dating and have now been together for 20 years, married the past 17, with two beautiful children. Rebecca will always say that Linda Phillips saved her life.

BS: Linda volunteered for over a decade before she retired to New York City in 2009. Linda drove 70 miles from her home in Atlanta to Nuçi’s Space several days a week. On Wednesday evenings she volunteered to facilitate a peer-run support group called Survivors of Suicide, for those who had lost a loved one to suicide. She would spend her days meeting with musicians who were seeking support and comfort. Linda became a dear friend and fierce advocate for those who opened themselves up to her kindness. It was common, following a full workday and the long return trip home, she would retreat to her home office and continue to make and receive calls from “my musicians,” as she likes to refer to our clients. 

Steve Hinsch: I began my search online…Survivors of Suicide, a phrase I’d never heard of, jumped out at me. I found a group in Athens at Nuci’s Space…So my first meeting, with a crowd of pensive, welcoming people, I was welcomed by Linda. I felt out of place, kinda like my first AA meeting, but Linda put me at ease quickly…Before that meeting’s end, in my 50s, I cried like a baby. But not alone.

Shauna H: I am 42 years old, alive and well. This is my Nuçi’s story of how Linda and Nuçi Phillips saved my life…I was 22 years old, living in Athens, working in the service industry, and playing in bands. One night I was home alone, once again at a jumping-off place, a danger to myself. I was clutching a bar napkin with a phone number and the word “help” written on it that a friend had given me. It was 2 a.m. and the number went to a voicemail, which I blubbered a message on. Within five minutes my phone rang. It was Linda. She called me back in the middle of the night and talked to me for hours. She talked to me until she felt like I was going to be safe until my appointment the following day with a psychiatrist and therapist. It was the sliver of hope I needed to stay alive. I will forever be grateful for her love. 

Laura Wilkerson: My first encounter with Linda was at my first Survivors of Suicide meeting in 2007. When I timidly walked into the Nuçi’s Space library and met Linda for the first time, I had no idea how the trajectory of my life would change. From the very beginning, Linda truly understood the complicated grief I felt over the loss of my brother, and she gave me the feeling that there was hope for a return to “normal.” She would always say “If love could have kept them here, they’d be alive right now.”

BS: Linda was a stalwart advocate for those who suffer from brain illness and worked tirelessly to prevent suicide. She was a survivor in every sense of the word. Although it was not an easy decision to retire from her role at Nuçi’s Space in 2009, she understood the need for the organization to evolve. After her move to New York City, she stayed in close contact with everyone at Nuçi’s Space; offering a caring ear, thoughtful advice and clarity of purpose when needed. Although 800 miles would separate her from Nuçi’s Space, Linda’s presence is always felt here.

Lesley Cobbs: When Linda left Athens, we talked on the phone. Long, intense calls about even the smallest happening or problem our staff members were facing. One by one, she would ask about every one of us, sometimes leaving me with the instruction to “make sure they call me this week.” Other times, very cleverly drawing out of me things I didn’t even want to say. Her superpower, making you say uncomfortable truths, was one in a long list of superpowers. 

Andrew Shearer: I moved to Athens right after high school, and it was my first time being away from my family and living on my own. The staff at Nuçi’s Space were the first friends I made in town, and they didn’t care that I was new to the city and knew absolutely no one. Linda was an immediate hero to me for what she created, but she was also the closest thing to a mother that I had nearby. Years later, long after all my bands had broken up, I stopped in to see her just to say hello and thank her. “You probably don’t remember me,” I said. Linda replied, “Of course I do. I remember all my kids.”

BS: Thankfully, Linda finished her first book “A Beautiful Here” in 2016 to leave with us. It’s a memoir of her experience with Nuçi through his battle with clinical depression and her grieving process after his death. The latter part of the book shares the inspiration for her creation of Nuçi’s Space and mission to prevent suicide. Prior to her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in late December 2019, Linda shared with me that she had started to write a second book. She never shared with me the subject matter but I’m confident her goal was to help others.

Dave Schools: I’m so proud of what Nuçi’s Space has become. It’s a testament to the love Linda had for her son, as well as the extraordinary strength of her vision for a place of coming together and healing… I wish every community had such a resource. Thank you, Linda, for sowing the seeds of healing from your tragic loss.

Jim White: At age 17 [my daughter] suffered a bonafide mental health crisis, and as is often the case with troubled teens, my daughter kept her struggles a secret. When I finally worked out what was going on behind the scenes, it was clear that a major intervention was needed to literally save her life. The first thing I did was call Nuçi’s Space. And really, I feel fairly confident saying that this was the difference between life and death for my kid. She’s survived long enough to learn how to shine, to find her stride as a human being, and I’m fairly sure that would not have happened but for Nuçi’s Space…When I travel the world now, touring in countries far and wide, I often make mention of Nuçi’s Space, and of Linda Phillips’ courage and vision in creating it…I wish there was a Nuci’s Space in every city in the world—that would be a fitting homage to the amazing, inspirational work Linda started. 

BS: I was fortunate to have spent a few days with Linda and her family about a month prior to her passing. Although it was evident that cancer and its treatment had ravaged her body and slowed her incredible mind, her sweet smile and sense of humor were still intact. At one point during our visit, Linda held my hand and confessed, with regretful acceptance, that she wouldn’t be able to finish her writing. Looking into my eyes, she said softly and confidently, “Darling, it’ll be up to you to finish writing our story.”

Often, I interpret those words more broadly, to include all of us who champion awareness and treatment of brain illness with kindness, empathy and care for our fellow human beings. That is the legacy of Linda Phillips, and it will be the responsibility of those who knew her and are inspired by her work to “finish writing the story.” I was reminded by Virginia Roberts, a close friend of Linda’s, who helped her scout a location for Nuçi’s Space in 1999. She said, “When she doubted her vision, I remember we repeated ‘If not now, when?’ I added, ‘If not you, then who?’”