A La Cañada resident of 37 years, Dr. John Tyler Phillips passed away in the early morning hours of Monday, Feb. 7, at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.
With him were his wife Patricia, six of his seven children, the spouses of his children and several of his eight grandchildren.
Dr. Phillips, known to many as JT, was born on Dec. 22, 1920 in Paducah, Kentucky. After growing up in Washington, D.C. and attending the prestigious Dunbar High School established for the benefit of gifted African American children, he entered Dartmouth College at the age of 16. In his interview at admission, the admissions counselor noted for the file "While only 16, with 17th birthday in December, the boy is well poised and there is nothing youthful in his reactions."
After his graduation in 1941, Dr. Phillips did graduate work in languages at the University of Chicago and earned his Doctor of Medicine degree at Meharry Medicine College in Nashville, Tenn., which in 1996 recognized him for his 50 years of "outstanding and dedicated service" as a physician.
Dr. Phillips chose a career in medicine rather than as a violinist when his studies were interrupted by World War II. He also served as an Air Force burn surgeon in the Korean War. In 1959 Dr. Phillips established his general surgery practice in Los Angeles with his longtime friend and partner, Dr. Raimundo Rodriguez, and ultimately became board certified as a hand surgeon.
For many years he served the people of East Los Angeles and the greater Los Angeles area and also donated services at local hospitals. Drs. Phillips and Rodriguez worked at California Medical Center and Good Samaritan Hospital. In 1996, at age 76, Dr. Phillips' health forced him into retirement earlier than he would have liked.
As a hand surgeon, Dr. Phillips was known for his painstaking, meticulous work repairing injuries and precisely restructuring patients' hands. He learned from each procedure and others learned from him. He recorded his surgical work with his high speed camera to the extent that a patient, when asked who his doctor was, replied - "oh, that's him, the one with the camera!"
His systematic careful way of work translated into his play as well. He logged thousands of hours of international and domestic flying as a private pilot, indeed, the most cautious of private pilots - how often did Pat and the five kids find themselves sleeping over in some small town waiting for the weather to clear? JT's trips to the Caribbean and to Mexico were well-planned, fun and "fabulous" as attested by his mother-in-law, Louise Dominis, every time he landed her safely in the little six-seater.
While JT chose between a career as a concert violinist and what some would call "real" work as a physician, his love of music continued throughout his life and was most evident in the lovely Spanish boleros that accompanied his courtship of his loving wife, Pat. Their mutual adoration blossomed through the soft swaying rhythm of "Piel Canela" to the poignant refrain "Señor Tabernero, sírvame otra copa, que quiero olvidar."
Dr. Phillips lives forever in the hearts of his wife and friend of 44 years, Pat, his children, Toni and her husband Bill Parker, Lisa and her husband Jim Schmid, Paul and his wife, Judy, Samantha and her husband Greg Jessner and John and his wife, Annemarie, John Tyler III and Millicent Anne. He is also the loving and adored grandfather of Patrick, Megan, Rell, Tori, Alexis, Victoria, Olivia and Zachary. He loved each and every one of these people so specially. His family misses him terribly. Qué le vaya en paz.
JT's grandson Patrick said about his grandpa: "Grandpa made those that he loved, confident. It is with this confidence that he graciously supplied, that I hope to continue his legacy of appreciating and commenting on the finer things in life. My grandpa, John Phillips, was one of the finest men I've had the honor of knowing in my 23 years. Grandpa was one of the finer things in my life."
Dr. Phillips' family will celebrate his life privately. Should you wish to make a donation in his memory, please do so to the organization of your choice.