January, our classmate and friend Phil Stitzer slipped the surly bonds
of earth after a fierce battle with ALS. Phil will always be remembered
as a fun guy to be with or around.
Phil met his wife Valerie at DU where he often entertained her whole
sorority house with his piano playing in the downstairs lounge. As
a junior he would prowl around the dorms (like the Tough Twenty Troll
he was) with his roommate Dave Helgevold looking for a Squadron, Group
or even Wing TV room where they were unknown so they could watch a
couple of shows they had grown to like while at home. Phil also loved
to dance and his synchronized routine on the dance floor with Dave
would frequently embarrass their dates.
Following graduation, Phil joined UPT class 70-01 where Phil's ready
smile quickly added the non-USAFA grads to his long list of friends.
Phil always had a unique way to solve a problem. The XKE Jag he bought
as a firstie arrived at Del Rio being pulled by the hearse Phil bought
to serve as a cargo carrier since the Jag had no luggage space. The
hearse became an icon at Del Rio and was frequently the bus used by
large groups of us to head across the border to Ciudad Acuna. He also
let classmates from as far away as Randolph use it for camping trips
to Padre Island.
Phil married Valerie halfway through UPT but remained as close as
ever to his classmates. Following his assignment as a T-38 IP at Vance
Phil joined the civilian world.
There Phil applied his degree in engineering sciences with Ingersol
Rand, Witco Chemical, and Alcan Aluminum beginning as an application
engineer and ending as a plant manager. The assignment he enjoyed
the most was project manager for a green field, start up venture located
in RTP, N.C. between Alcan Aluminum and Sumitomo Electric of Japan,
which would manufacture fiber optic ground wire. He completed the
facility and installation of equipment on time and under budget; he
remained at the facility to manage the start up phase of manufacturing.
In 1996 he established his own business as a plumbing contractor.
In 2008 due to health related issues, Phil retired from business.
Phil was a high energy, hands-on, do-it-yourself guy who designed
and built a post-and-beam construction barn, remodeled two houses,
and rebuilt a 1940 Ford pickup. He sculled, sailed and canoed competitively.
He loved dogs but the one he loved the best was an adopted Greyhound
rescue he renamed Amelia Earhart. Phil sang tenor in church choirs
and volunteered his talents with local chapters of Chamber of Commerce,
Habitat for Humanity, and Kiwanis.
Phil's advice to his children, Jennifer Hedrick and Katharine Gardinier,
was to "live without regret." He strove to practice what
he advocated. When faced with an incurable illness, he found the strength
to prevail on his own terms. Phil left us much too soon.
(Dave Helgevold '68, Jay Barnes '68
and Valerie Stitzer)