Gary L. Phillips | Passages

Gary L. Phillips, of Bainbridge Island was born in a small rural town in southern Indiana on June 2, 1939, to Imogene and Raymond Phillips. He passed away in Bremerton on Nov. 15, 2016 at the age 77.

By three months of age, Gary had experienced multiple abdominal surgeries and doctors concluded the baby would not survive. Church neighbors suggested to Gary’s parents they trade their “coon dog” for a nursing goat, and the infant survived.

During his early years, Gary and his younger siblings, Joe and lmorae helped maintain the small family farm by mending fences, catching an escaped goat or pig, and bringing in the garden bounty. All family members sang and played string instruments and performed locally in churches, hospitals, and nursing homes. Gary played the piano and accordion, but the upright bass became his favorite instrument and he continued playing in college, early adult years, and once again for the past couple of years.

Gary played basketball and ran track in high school and college. Later, he coached high school basketball teams. During his graduate studies, Gary worked as a probation officer, took students on Outward Bound experiences, and continued playing music with groups. He earned degrees in business administration, psychology, and public school administration. He taught at Butler University (Indianapolis, Indiana) and Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, British Columbia), then opened his own educational consulting business, National School Improvement Project in Seattle, in 1985.

Gary was an accomplished professor, principal, counselor, Fulbright scholar, author, and motivational speaker. His philosophy was, “Attitude determines altitude.”

He was an expert on how to motivate and teach students with different learning styles and bringing humor, joy, and beauty into the classroom. Like Mark Twain, Gary was a homespun storyteller with sayings such as, “If the horse you’re riding dies, it’s probably a good time to dismount.” Students of all ages across the U.S. and Canada benefited from Gary’s instruction at public schools, the Canadian Ministry of Education, and the United States Department of Education. He highly valued teaching, learning, and collaboration, and held the greatest respect for his students, colleagues, peers, and friends.

Gary was an avid reader and writer, publishing books for teachers, counselors, and those interested in learning. He loved research, regularly quoting favorite authors: Einstein, Festinger, Frankl, Glasser, Mead, Montessori, Sizer, Pribram, Sternberg, Senges, Csikszentmihalyi, and many more!

Gary’s intellect, humor, kindness and stories will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered by all who knew him. There was nothing Gary loved more than spending time with family and friends, singing, playing music, sharing stories, jokes, playing tricks, taking long walks or swims, and dancing in the kitchen every Saturday night with The Swing Years and Beyond. Utmost gratitude is given to Carol and Mike, loving companions, for their many trips to the gym, walks along the water, and treats they enjoyed.

Gary dearly loved all of the members of his large family and community. He is greatly missed by his wife, Mary, of Bainbridge Island; his former wife, Sharon Grable Marsh, Indianaplois, Indiana and their four adult children; Tony Phillips, Kerry Phillips, Dan Phillips and Honi-Jo Rodriguez. Grandchildren include Josh Phillips, Gus Phillips, Jeremy Darringer and Ashley Darringer. Stepchildren are Susan Tate, Jonathan Tate; stepgrandchildren Jack and Kiko Pyle and Emelio Tate. Gary is also survived by his cousins, nieces, and nephews. Beloved family friends are Max and Pat Beasley.

Gary was preceded in death by his parents and two siblings.

Memories or stories of Gary may be shared at Memorial donations may be made to Helpline House, Bainbridge Island, WA. 98110; Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, AL. 36104; and/or Oakland City University Foundation, Oakland City, IND. 47660.

Gary’s Celebration of Life will be announced at a later date.

“Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life …” P.P. Bliss