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A life well-lived and a special Southern friendship

Miss Katherine, Dr. Sid and me

Miss Katherine, Dr. Sid and me

In between writing blog posts I sometimes wonder: why write the next one? I mean, who really is interested in hearing my thoughts, my happenings, my dreams.

But then something new and extraordinary happens and whether you read it or not, I just have to put it on paper.

A few days ago I attended the funeral of a great man. A new friend who I’d barely got to know.

But as I sat in church listening to his grown sons and grandson speak, I felt blessed beyond measure for the short time I got to meet and know Dr. Sidney Clarke Phillips Jr., M.D., 91 years old of Mobile, Alabama.

Where do I start? Not even a year ago, the Mobile newspaper ran a story on my adventure of pursuing my Bucket List #67, to restore a Southern home. It happened to be read by a long-time Mobile resident of 92 years who – without a computer – went out of her way to find and contact me to let me know that her best friend, Myrtle May “Myrt” Morgan Hartman of California was born and raised in the home I had bought and was restoring at 257 Rapier Avenue.

Long story short, I felt a connection to Miss Katherine and everything about her, including her dear little brother, who I called Dr. Sid. Through our budding friendship, I discovered Miss Katherine along with her brother were celebrated war heroes – each having starred in the Ken Burn’s documentary “The War”.

And later, HBO’s The Pacific, produced by Tom Hanks, used Dr. Sid and his sister and family as the real life inspiration for his storyline.  You see, Dr. Sid was one of the few remaining living WWII veterans of the Marine Corp, along with having many other life accomplishments.

But oddly I first fell in love with them before finding out their notoriety. Unlike many others, to me their public personas just made for great stories. Like hearing Miss Katherine share about her personal time spent with Tom Hanks and her telling him she wasn’t impressed with the movie Forrest Gump!

And so began my few encounters with Dr. Sid, visiting him when I was in Mobile on Fridays as he sat around a smoking incinerator with his weekly “Lunch Bunch” of fellow veterans on his farm in Theodore, Alabama.

My last visit with Dr. Sid happened a few weeks ago, visiting him as he sat in his La-Z-Boy, too weak to be outside with his friends, slowly succumbing to the cancer that ravaged his body.

I was excited to introduce him to my sister and my daughter who were with me. And as before, he did not disappoint. He humoured us with his stories of meeting Eleanor Roosevelt and other retellings of days gone by.

To say he could make me laugh is an understatement.

His gift of storytelling and wit always made for a wonderful time.

I like to claim I may be the last one for whom he autographed his book “You’ll be Sor-ree!”.  He wrote within it a reference to a Bible text II Timothy 1:7, which reads:

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”.

This must’ve been his verse because there it was – written on the front of his funeral service bulletin.

Why do I tell you all this? Good question.

A few reasons I think.  First, I mourn with and for his beloved sister, his best friend, Miss Katherine, my Southern Mama. No longer will her phone ring in the morning and hear her brother say: “Well, I came down for breakfast today!” – meaning it’s a good day, I’m alive.

Second, with Veteran’s day approaching, or Remembrance Day for us in Canada, thanks to Dr. Sid and Miss Katherine’s friendship, I have a new and deep appreciation for those who fought for their countries to protect our freedom and fight against evil forces. Meeting a real life war hero has spun a deep appreciation within me for these brave men and women.

As Dr. Sid has said, thousands did what he did, but for some reason he was chosen to be celebrated as a symbol of all war heroes – to quote him “I am the most documented nobody in America”.

Humility, humour and a hunger to serve people.

Dr. Sid, you are not a nobody. You are an inspiration to live life to its fullest, filled with a heart to serve.

Thank you God for the divine privilege of meeting Dr. Sid and my dear friend, Miss Katherine.

Life is good. Live it well. Celebrate a friendship.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Sid and Miss. Katherine late last year. We talked about all kinds of things, but the start to the interview makes me smile every time I watch it. To me, it’s how I will always think of Dr. Sid.

You can watch the clip here:

For more on the life of the Dr. Sid, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidney_Phillips

And share your own hero encounters in the comments below.

24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kathleen #

    Never feel that we are not interested in your thoughts or experiences. What a wonderful man, he appears to be one of the great ones. How blessed you were to have known him. Thank you for sharing.

    October 14, 2015
    • Thanks so much Kathleen – your words are encouraging and yes! I feel incredibly blessed to have met Dr. Sid!

      October 14, 2015
  2. Linda Meents #

    I was so fond of the story of Miss Katherine and Myrt that you shared in one of your episodes. I lived in Rancho Cucamonga, CA for eleven years before moving to Milton, GA. Don’t ever think we’re not interested in your blog. You are as charming as you are entertaining.

    October 14, 2015
    • Dear Linda,

      You lived in Rancho Cucamonga too? You might’ve met Miss Myrt and didn’t even know it! In all seriousness, thanks for your kind words and I’m so glad to hear that you too are fond of the Miss Myrt and Miss Katherine story – they are amazing women!

      October 14, 2015
  3. Hi Ester, I think what your doing is wonderful, to be able to meet the people and there families, to learn the history of the house, to bring it back to its original state, while all along including Miss Myrt, Miss Katherine and Dr. Sid. I look forward to your write ups. It makes my busy day more enjoyable. I wish I was able to meet Dr Sid, I love talking to the elderly, listening to their stories and all the wisdom they have obtained in their long lives. Keep it up, your the excitement in those ladies lives now.

    October 15, 2015
    • I wish you could have met him too Bob. Thanks for following the stories! And for your interest in it all.

      October 27, 2015
  4. Anonymous #

    Esther, here’s how I feel about it – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0rkAhKFpgM&list=RDq0rkAhKFpgM#t=9

    Memfus

    October 15, 2015
    • Memfus, you make me smile – thanks for caring! See you soon!

      October 27, 2015
  5. Memfus

    October 15, 2015
  6. Kurt Shillig #

    Great job reaching out to make those great associations. Great memories to last you a very long lifetime. Keep up the good work.

    October 15, 2015
  7. Sherry #

    What a wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing! Friendships – the ones that tie your heart to another’s – whether new or old, are such a gift! I am glad you had the opportunity to know this incredible man and his beautiful sister, and are able to share them with us.

    May Miss Katherine know deep comfort and peace in this time of sorrow and grief. And may you be blessed with continued joy as you reap the treasures gained from knowing them.

    Sherry

    October 16, 2015
  8. Anonymous #

    Esther, what a rich story in so many ways. I too know a man with a similar history of service and sacrifice. Thanks for sharing.

    October 16, 2015
  9. Betsy #

    This is my first visit to your blog. After reading your entry I know I wouldn’t be one to ask why you wrote this article. What a wonderful man and a great generation! Thank you so much! Your blog is going to be a “Must Read” for me.

    October 24, 2015
  10. Suzann #

    Thank you for sharing. Dr Sid & Katharine are good salt of the earth people. so thankful to know their stories.

    October 24, 2015
  11. Esther – It was such a blessing & a mourning of a lost spirit in this world but rejoicing in the thoughts & prayers that this lovely, southern gentleman was put in your path to experience the heritage & history of the beautiful southern people. The gentle spirit & humbleness shines through his words and yet knowing that he accomplished the things he did as a Marine in WWII and was able to come back home to share with his family and those that viewed the movie written around those experiences. Always look forward to seeing the steps you are taking to share the renewal of this old southern home and the people who made it possible for all of us to see what life can be like in a beautiful southern city such as Mobile….see ya’ next month!!!!

    October 26, 2015
  12. Jean Tucker #

    I found your website through following Thistlewood Farms blog, I could not have been more excited because I was born and raised in Mobile and now live on beautiful Lake Martin, Alabama where one of my neighbors and best friends are David and Susie Pearson. I have met Miss Katherine and she has been in my home and of course I knew of Dr. Sidney Phillips, having lived in Mobile. I had to call Susie and tell her of my discovery and how excited I was. I have so enjoyed all your videos and all the history you have uncovered and would love to visit sometime. With all the access we have through the Internet, it is truly a small world.

    Regards,
    Jean Tucker

    October 31, 2015
    • What a very small world we live in – thanks so much for letting me know the connection. I just entirely confused my husband trying to explain it to him! Thanks so much for your kind words and for following the Southern Romance project along. I haven’t let Susie or Miss Katherine know yet but the Open House date is Feb 27 – do come!! Thanks again Jean.

      October 31, 2015
  13. With each relationship you write about, I feel like I get to know you more!
    Debbie

    November 4, 2015
  14. Deborah Hawkins #

    My Mother, Rosalie Hawkins met Miss Myrt and Miss Katherine while she lived with her great aunt, Louise Stack in the red brick house two lots down from 257. They all attended Murphy High School together. Mom said Sid Phillips Sr. was very kind and would take the girls to the movies. She even met my Dad, Derrall at Myrt’s house. They were married for almost 69 years until he went to heaven in 2011. Mom joined him in 2013. They moved into 255 Rapier in 1956.

    November 23, 2015

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