Though it spanned over half a century, it was a special moment in time. The moment began in 1961 when “Mr. Phil” arrived in New Orleans to become the New Orleans Lee Circle YMCA Assistant Physical Director with his wife “Mrs. Gail,” who was pregnant with Eddie, and their son Phil III.
That summer program was the seed that blossomed into a series of events that altered the lives of “Mr. Phil,” his family and hundreds of those youth and adults that were caught in the mystique of a variety of experiences. Perhaps most important was fostering the development and growth of the Lee Circle Leaders’ Club which was considered one of the most prominent Leaders’ Club programs in the nation.
Those who wore the Lee Circle Leaders’ Club mantel were the central part of the Lee Circle Y youth programming. They were highly trained in leadership skills, steeped in tradition and bound by the Leaders’ Club mantra that “YMCA programs must be individually centered…providing opportunity for all to develop to their own potential.”
“Mr. Phil” was intimately involved in the core leadership of Blue Ridge Leaders’ School for over 50 years. He wrote most all of the school’s curriculum, authored the Leaders’ Club Development and Training Guide, provided the leadership of multiple program offerings and served as the Director of the Sr. Division.
When their sons Phil and Eddie turned 4 and 3 years of age, “Mrs. Gail” became involved at BRLS teaching exercise classes, publishing the daily newspaper, and assisting with nurse duties. Both Phil and Eddie became BRLS Leader participants and as adults served on the BRLS staff. At one point, the contingent from New Orleans numbered over 100 participants and staff for the one week school.
“Mr. Phil,” “Mrs. Gail,” Phil and Eddie shared their lives and family with those involved in the Y programs. It grew to become an extended family with some actually living with them during troubled times. Many remain “Mr. Phil’s” and “Mrs. Gail’s” closest friends today.
In concert with the Leaders’ Club’s mantra, programs ranging from gymnastics to judo provided youth from all walks of life the opportunities to achieve life changing goals including college scholarships. Many became Y policy volunteers and Y career professionals. It is that achievement that is the ultimate measurement of “Mr. Phil’s” career.