Along the way, Phil had bought the family a house on Webster Lake. They had a dock and a motorboat. One day he was approached by his friend Joe, an Oxford school teacher and neighbor, who said, “I’d like to buy a sailboat but I don’t know anything about them. I’ve seen one I like, can you come with me to check it out?” It was a 14-foot sailboat, for sale for $150. Phil told Joe to offer the the seller $75 for it, and he took it. Then Phil asked Joe, “How about sharing the boat with me?” Joe agreed, and the boat cost Phil just $37.50. He learned to sail and started going to Boston boat shows. There he met a boat agent, Harry Parker, and bought a boat from him. It was a Dawson 26, made in Las Vegas.
Parker wasn't having much success selling boats made in Las Vegas. Phil told him that if they wanted to sell a seaworthy boat on the east or west coast, they should build it on one of the coasts. Dawson took that advice and contracted with a boat builder in Florida to transfer the manufacturing there. They constructed a new building in which to make the Dawson boats. Some time later, Dawson found out the Florida boat builder was using the new building for his own boats, and the Dawson boats were being made outside. He became disillusioned, and decided to sell the operation.
Harry Parker, still the East Coast sales representative for Dawson, wanted to buy the business, but he didn’t have any money, and so approached Phil with yet another venture. This was in the mid-80s. Phil financed the deal and they moved the Dawson boat building business to Maine, where Parker had a boat yard. Parker/Hopkins Yachts was thus established. The Dawson was billed as a small family cruising boat, 26- feet long with two cabins and would sleep six. It had small diesel engine, and “we could sail the ocean and the lakes.” Ten years later Harry got sick, they sold the business “and Harry finally made a profit.”
Phil and Tillie had a large family, five boys and five girls. Son Philip Jr., who served with the Naval Corps in Japan, died of a brain tumor at just 55. The second son, Jim, lives next door to Phil in his Oxford home, a lovely period house with a wall of photos chronicling the family history. Daughter Nancy, the oldest, lives in Florida, Mary in upstate New York, and son Billy, night editor at the Providence Journal, in Rhode Island. Next were twins Mark and Mike. Mike has his own construction company in Webster, and Mark works for National Grid in Worcester. The last three were daughters, “to even out the numbers.” Heidi lives north of Boston, Laurie was a nurse at Beth Israel for many years, and Colleen is Vice President at the Worcester County Realtors Association. Phil has 22 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Busy as he was with his companies and family, Phil was equally active in the community. He joined the Chamber of Commerce when Dudley and Webster combined with the Oxford Chamber, which had been founded in 1945. He served as Chamber president in1977 and became a life member of the board in 1989.
He also spent many years on the Board of Directors of Hubbard Hospital, now part of Harrington Health Care, serving as president for three years from 1987 to1989, and still sits on the board today.
And then there were the 35 years he was associated with the Webster Five Cents Savings Bank, first as a corporator, then a trustee, then serving on the Board of Investors, and finally on the Board of Directors, of which he became vice chairman. When his time to serve as chairman came five years ago, he decided that at age 82, he was too old for the position.
Phil's philosophy was, “if you live in a town you should help the town.” We asked if he had ever held public office. “Almost,” was his answer. He remembered how, at one time, there had been an opening on the Oxford School Committee. “I was walking down the street, and one of the selectmen said 'I want to talk with you. I want you to join the school committee.' I said, I don't have time. You're going to make time, he said. I couldn't say no, and was appointed. When my year was up I was enjoying being a member, and ran for election.” He lost by ten votes. “If the kids could have voted, I could have won.” He reconsiders. “No, they wouldn’t have voted to put m on the school committee.”
Summing up, Phil alluded to the popular saying, It takes a village. ”In my case,” he said, “it took a very good wife and partner to be successful.” He then recounted more of Tillie’s story. She had become a nurse in the Army Nursing Corps, which was a government sponsored program, but it was never officially recognized by the military until just a few years ago, when a memorial was established in Washington DC.
After they were married, Tillie didn’t work, but took care of the children. That’s how it was in those days, he said. After raising the children, Tillie went back to school and earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health at Clark University. She then became the Director of Continuing Care at Hubbard Hospital. “She was a great partner,” said Phil. It's clear he misses her.
- Wednesday, 19 September 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor