Gary Frank Phillips, 70, of Chetek passed away on the evening of Saturday, March 28, 2020 after a long courageous battle with lymphoma cancer at Methodist Hospital in Rochester, Minn. The second of five children, Gary was born on Feb. 28, 1950 in Ladysmith, the son of Frank and Sonna Phillips and grew up on the family dairy farm south of Weyerhaeuser.
Gary graduated from Weyerhaeuser High School in 1968 and from CVTC-Eau Claire with an automotive degree in 1970. In search of a job, in 1973 Gary moved to Minneapolis, Minn., where he worked at Carter Day running a crane to load trucks for six years. He married Sandy Gronski on Sept. 30, 1978 in Weyerhaeuser. In 1979 they moved to Denver, Colo. where Gary received a gunsmithing degree from Colorado School of Trades. In 1980 they moved to Rice Lake. He worked at Chermack Machine in Cameron and did gunsmithing in his spare time.
In the spring of 1982 they bought the family dairy farm from Sandy’s mom and dad and he also worked part-time at CVTC-Eau Claire doing firearms training for the police. As his gunsmithing business grew, he sold the cows in 1991 and raised springing heifers and beef cattle. Always a learner, he went back to college and graduated in 1996 from UW-Stout with a bachelor's in Vocational, Technical and Adult Education and in 2002 with a master’s in Industrial/Technology Education.
He was a substitute teacher at schools in the area and from 2001-2016 he worked at UW-Barron County in Rice Lake as distance education coordinator and oversaw campus instructional technology. He retired in 2016.
Gary’s passions were hunting, fishing, cars, motorcycles, guns, reading and storytelling. He enjoyed fixing stuff and eagerly helped neighbors and friends. He liked camping, shaking dice, playing Smear and taking motorcycle trips with his friends the “gang.”
Gary was a 4-H leader in Rusk County and mentored many kids in shooting sports, model railroads, horses, dairy, 4-H camp and JLO. In one word Gary was a teacher. His words and wisdom will continue as we pass his teachings to our families and friends.
Gary is survived by his wife of 41 years, Sandy; children, Travis and Yuko (Endo) Phillips of Stoughton and Tracy Phillips and partner Mike Duffenbach and his son Cullen of Eau Claire, WI; a grandchild due in August for Travis and Yuko; sisters, Jacqueline Martindale and partner Jerry Neis and Faye Phillips and partner Jeff Kelly, of Sun Prairie; brothers, Rick Phillips and partner Barb Jeffries of Cincinnati, OH, and Wayne and Pamela (Preston) Phillips of Hudson; brothers-in-law, Jerry (Marilyn) Gronski of Ham Lake, Minn. and Joe (Trudy) Gronski of Spooner; many nieces and nephews.
Preceding him in death were his parents, Frank and Sonna Phillips.
A private service was held Saturday, April 4 at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Weyerhaeuser with Deacon Craig Voldberg officiating with internment in the church cemetery. A celebration of life will be at a later date.
Nash-Jackan Funeral Home in Ladysmith assisted with the arrangements.