The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

January 5, 2014

300 bid farewell to Merle Phillips

SUNBURY — Many of the more than 300 people who came to remember Merle Phillips at his funeral Saturday knew him through his political career. But everyone left with a good idea of Phillips, the man.

Specifically, the family man who loved his grandchildren and hunting and held the Marine Corps close to his heart, given pictures and mementos that filled Emmanuel Bible Fellowship Church, where Phillips was an elder for more than 50 years.

“He always said, ’Just bury me in a pine box,’” said Jane Bysko, one of Phillips’ five children. “He got something a little fancier, but we kept it as he wanted.”

His son, Dr. Michael Phillips, gave a wink and a nod to his father in his eulogy.

“If you knew my father really well,” Michael Phillips said, “you know he is somewhere really enjoying all this fuss and attention.”

That included an honor guard of the Pennsylvania Capitol Police standing by his casket at all times. Later, several Sunbury police cruisers would lead the funeral cortege down Market Street “which he really wanted,” Bysko said. “He didn’t like the alleys. ’Why would you go down an alley?’ he’d say. He really loved Market Street.”

An honor guard of Marines performed an official military salute and send-off of Phillips at Orchard Hills Cemetery, where he was laid to rest overlooking the Valley he’d represented for more than 30 years in the state House of Representatives.

In the church, Phillips seemed just as alive in a continual slide show that gave a good idea of his personal side. Among the many facets of his life were hunting parties and the game he caught, lots of babies and family pictures, a young Phillips in his Marine uniform and sporting a large insignia tattoo.

Bysko remembered her father as fanatical about his lawn — “the bushes were cut perfect” — and hunting, having bagged a deer just last month.

Recently, “He was going around the house saying what needed to be fixed,” Bysko said, and noting that the snowblower needed pins of some sort to keep working.

“He was preparing,” she said. “He really took care of the family.”

Phillips made it to Bysko’s Connecticut residence to welcome home her son-in-law, who had been ill, and rallied for a wonderful Christmas before succumbing Monday at age 85.

“He was a big believer that everyone deserved a first, second and third chance,” said state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, who worked for Phillips his entire Harrisburg career, beginning as a summer intern. “If you were seeking help for yourself, he felt you deserved it.”

Phillips encouraged Culver to run for his seat in the state’s 108th Legislative District after his retirement, but stayed back when it came to her governing.

“He’d say ’This is not my job. It’s your job,’” she said. “He gave no comments, but he listened if I needed him to.”

Culver was among Valley dignitaries attending Saturday’s services, which included state Rep. Kurt Masser, R-107, Elysburg; state Sen. John Gordner, R-27, Berwick; Northumberland County Coroner James Kelley; and Sunbury Mayor David Persing, who called Phillips a “go-to guy.”

When asked what Phillips meant to Sunbury, Persing’s wife, Kathaleen, interjected: “I don’t think you can put that into words.”

“There is no one here who did not benefit from knowing Merle Phillips,” the mayor said. “He was great to be around and always the first to help. ... I don’t know that there’ll be another like him.”

 

1
Text Only
News
  • Prize claim cost man $1,829

    WINFIELD — Western Union is doing what it can to educate people about the risks in wiring money. An entire section on its website (www.westernunion.com) is devoted to providing information that might reduce the risk of people falling victim to fraud schemes.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Reel good time enjoyed by 200 young anglers

    TREVORTON — It only took about three minutes for J.C. Wallish to reel in his first fish at the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association’s annual Youth Trout Derby on Saturday.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Elytte Barbour's 'bad trip' put him on the road to prison, friend says

    SUNBURY — A former roommate of slaying suspect Elytte Barbour drove 450 miles from North Carolina to spend 45 minutes in the Northumberland County Prison with his best friend last week, and was not surprised when he heard Barbour say: “I am afraid to spend the rest of my life in jail.”

    April 19, 2014

  • bonehunt20a.jpg 60 dogs battle for biscuits at annual bone hunt

    It was a scene similar to ones playing out all over the nation this weekend: nervous parents holding baskets and bags, watching their little ones search for goodies in the grass.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona tribe set to prosecute first non-Indian under a new law

    PASCUA YAQUI INDIAN RESERVATION, Ariz. — Tribal police chief Michael Valenzuela drove through darkened desert streets, turned into a Circle K convenience store and pointed to the spot beyond the reservation line where his officers used to take the non-Indian men who battered Indian women.
     

    April 19, 2014

  • Danville parents hope strike ends quickly

    DANVILLE ““ First-grader Madison Wild was sad she missed school Thursday.

    April 19, 2014

  • Schools ask state to waive 180-day rule

    Three area school districts have asked the Pennsylvania Department of Education to add up their hours instead of their days in order to reach the required amount of instruction time in the school year.

    April 19, 2014

  • Former Bucknell star in NBA playoffs

    ATLANTA — It really hit Mike Muscala a few days ago when he was listening to the Nets’ starting lineup at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

    April 19, 2014

  • State: Discard raw milk from Greenfield Dairy

    MIDDLEBURG — Consumers should discard raw milk purchased recently from the Greenfield Dairy of Middleburg, which also has temporarily suspended production after Listeria monocytogenes was discovered in the product following routine testing, the state Department of Agriculture announced today.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penn State police: Three posed nude at Nittany shrine

    STATE COLLEGE — Penn State police say three male students who reportedly posed nude for a photo at the university’s Nittany Lion Shrine face school discipline.

    April 18, 2014

The Daily Marquee
Poll

How do you eat your chocolate Easter bunny?

Feet first
Tail first
Ears first
     View Results
Photo Galleries
The Valley

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.