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Borowicz, friends and family of Lee Phillips honor late WWII veteran with bridge dedication

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS Relatives of the late Lee Phillips pose for a photo with State Representative Stephanie Borowicz, far right, Clinton County Veterans Affairs Director Jennifer Hagaman, front left and speakers, back row from left, Wayne Allison, Clinton County Commissioner Angela Harding, Congressman Fred Keller and State Senator Cris Dush.

LOCK HAVEN — An unsung hero. A below the radar leader. A silent contributor.

These were some of the many ways elected officials and friends spoke about the late Tech. Corporal Lee R. Phillips during a bridge dedication in Woolrich on Tuesday afternoon.

The bridge, which crosses Chatham Run near the little village’s Post Office, was chosen by State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz (R-Clinton/Union). A large crowd of Phillips’s family, friends, elected officials and the Jersey Shore Honor Guard gathered to honor the World War II veteran for his service to the country and the Clinton County community.

Among those who spoke during the ceremony were Borowicz, Sen. Cris Dush, Congressman Fred Keller, Clinton County Commissioner Angela Harding on behalf of the Lock Haven Kiwanis, and his decades-long friend, Wayne Allison.

Allison spoke of the many bridges he’d crossed in his travels, and the names he would see on them. He noted that he’d often ask himself why the bridges were dedicated to these men and women. Were they a hero? A successful business person? A valued member of their community? Or maybe just an all around good person and role model? Lee Phillips was all of these things, Allison said.

“Lee Phillips was a member of the greatest generation. When our country needed soldiers, he stood up. Lee left high school to enlist … (he) drove tank for General Patton all over Europe,” he said. “I liked to tell people when I introduced him, that it was guys like him that made General Patton famous. Because without those thousands of individuals, the sacrifices and effort that they put forth … Patton would have just been an asterisk in military history.”

Allison said Phillips rarely talked about his time in the service. However, in his and many other’s minds, he absolutely was a hero.

After returning home, Phillips would soon become a successful part owner of an autoparts business in Williamsport. After the sale of that business, he and his wife, Madeleine, resided in Woolrich before later moving to Dunnstown.

During that time, “Lee joined and quietly supported several local organizations with his leadership skills and financial contributions,” Allison said. Among them were the Shriners, Kiwanis, Clinton County United Way and the Clinton County Community Foundation.

“Wherever he went, he was viewed as a below-the-radar leader, whose goal was to help make the community a better place,” Allison said. “He lived a quiet, independent lifestyle but you always knew when he was in the room. He liked people and they liked him. He enjoyed ice cream, Limburger cheese, homemade wine and Manhattans. His only self indulgence was driving a nice car. If you met Lee, you would not have guessed he was a millionaire.”

Allison concluded, noting that Phillips would not have ever sought to be recognized for his contributions.

“But I think there are hundreds of us, many who could not be here today, that think this is a well deserved honor,” he said. “And it will remind us of the values Lee held dear as he lived his life in our community.”

Commissioner Angela Harding spoke on behalf of the Lock Haven Kiwanis Club, which received many contributions from Phillips. Harding noted that, at the time of his passing in April 2020, Phillips was the oldest living member of the LH Kiwanis. She said he served the club for 60 years, 20 of which she was able to be a part of.

“From Kiwanis Spaghetti Dinners, to picnics, to the inner clubs, Lee was always sharing,” she said. “It wasn’t until Lee’s passing that I became aware of just how charitable Lee was.”

Phillips and his wife created the Lee and Maddie Phillips Memorial Fund through the Clinton County Community Foundation which consisted of $3.8 million.

“Lee was able to designate funds on an annual basis for the sustainability of many organizations in our community,” she said. “Lee and Maddie Phillips lived a simple life, they loved their community. And because of that, many organizations and many members of this community will remember them for many years to come.”

Borowicz spoke of her time with Phillips, which began during her state representative campaign in 2016.

“I knocked on his door, and I fastly became his friend,” she said. “I started going once a week, on Wednesdays, taking him a meal, a cake, a treat because I wanted to be in his presence.”

She noted that, as many knew, Phillips didn’t speak much of his time in World War II. But when he did, she listened.

“A humble man, leaving a lasting legacy. I want this legacy left so that no one forgets that a man lived. Not very many know his name, but when they drive past this bridge they will know Lee Phillips,” Borowicz said.

Dush, a retired Master Sgt. from the Air Force and the father of a Para Rescueman, encouraged those gathered to always take note of bridges like the one named in honor of Lee Phillips.

“We have to be able to talk about things and remember them. Because if we don’t, we lose track of who we are as a nation. That’s the importance of these things,” Dush said.

Keller also spoke of the importance of remembering veterans and community members like Phillips.

“The work we do on behalf of the people we represent could not be done if it were not for the service of individuals like Lee Phillips,” he said. “It’s about making sure that we always remember those who have given so much on behalf of our great nation, the people of our country and the world.”

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