In the Art Hill Ford and Service and Parts Department hangs a drawing of a man who worked there for 26 years: George “Leigh” Phillips. Drawn by a customer, it incorporated Phillips’ well known smile as well as an inscription that summed up his philosophy of life and service: “How May I Brighten Your Day?”
“That was him,” said wife Patricia. “He had an infectious smile, a twinkle in his eye.”
Phillips’ wife and daughter describe him as a simple man who loved his family and his God. A native of Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood, Phillips spent most of his life in Lynwood. He and his wife met in 1958 and married five years later.
He converted to Catholicism and “became the best Catholic you’d ever want to meet,” his wife said. He was a parishioner at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Lansing for more than 30 years. He spent his entire 50-year career in the auto parts business; more than half of his career was at Art Hill. His co-workers already miss his sense of humor and the “Bah Humbug” buttons he’d wear at Christmastime.
“It’s not that he hated Christmas, he loved Christmas,” daughter Tracy Fox said. “He just hated the commercialization of it.”
Fox and her father were kindred spirits, she said. She even married a man much like him. Although physical opposites, “They were like peas in a pod,” she said. Phillips called her “my little angel” throughout her whole life and found great joy in anything she did.
Her father loved nature, the home she and her husband have in the country, canoeing in the lake near his own home, Fox said. He loved mystery novels, word puzzles, Scrabble and political cartoons.
He very much loved movies, from the ‘40s on up through the ‘60s. He was especially fond of comedians Laurel and Hardy. The Rev. Bill McFarlane of St. Ann’s, knowing of McFarlane’s fondness for them, placed small statues of them on Phillips’ casket during the funeral mass. Afterwards, he gave the statues to the family, Fox said.
Fox also knew that her father was a big fan of “The Blues Brothers” movie. She’d gotten him a tie bearing the well-known line from the movie, “I’m on a mission from God.” He never got a chance to wear it, she said, so she made sure it was with him in his casket. He also wore the t-shirt, “Super Dad,” under his clothes.
An only child, Phillips was a devoted son to his mother, visiting her faithfully during her last years. He was a man who cared nothing for wealth and possessions; his wealth was his family and his faith, his wife said. “We knew where he was going” upon his death, she said. “He was on the express train.”