Family, friends celebrate Phillips' life
SUNBURY - Saturday's service to celebrate the life of former State Rep. Merle Phillips did not focus so much on the public life he led in service to the people of his legislative district for more than 30 years.
Instead, family, friends and colleagues gathered inside Emmanuel Bible Church Saturday to celebrate his Christian life, a life filled with love of family and compassion for his fellow man.
"Merle bestowed so much upon everyone who knew him," said Pastor Charles Cole. "If you were his friend, you were richly blessed."
Phillips, 85, passed away Dec. 30 following a battle with myeloma he was diagnosed with in 2011. He served in the Pennsylvania House of Representative for more than 30 years and 13 months as a Northumberland County commissioner.
Saturday's service featured several passages of Scripture and hymns specifically selected by Phillips and his family for the service. Cole read one of them, coming from St. Paul's second letter to Timothy.
"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith," Cole read.
The pastor said Phillips was the epitome of that verse.
"Merle was a kind man of faith. He lived joyfully and served faithfully. He always trusted in the Bible, the book of life to him," the pastor said.
Following a special perfor-
mance of the hymn "Face to Face" by family friend Glenna Rearick, several members of the Phillips family shared their memories of him.
"Our thanks goes to everyone here and everyone who has offered comfort to my family during this time," son Michael Phillips said. "We all take solace in the fact that his suffering is over."
Phillips spoke about the way his father treated everyone he dealt with in his life.
"My father often said to me, 'Don't ever set any person too high on a pedestal, because no person is perfect.'" Michael Phillips said. "My father was a simple man, a common man; he didn't talk down to anyone, he treated everyone with respect."
Michael called his father a person who "put faith and family first."
"Looking around and seeing everyone here, we all know that his was a life well-lived," he said in closing.
His youngest daughter, Lori, spoke about how her father "spoke life to her."
"Any time that something got me down, he was always there to encourage me and listen to me," she said. "I always felt better after a pep talk from my dad.
"He made everyone feel important and spoke life through kindness and generosity. I give thanks not for everything he did, but for the man he was," Lori continued.
Former state Rep. Bob Allen, who was a colleague of Phillips' in the state House, was scheduled to give the eulogy, but he fell ill Saturday and was unable to make it. Pastor Cole filled in, speaking about his memories of Merle Phillips and the 62-year love Phillips had for his wife, Helen.
"The two of them built a solid foundation for this family, and she was so loved and respected by Merle," Cole said.
He also spoke about how Phillips was dedicated to helping others and hope that those he helped continued that tradition.
"Some people he worked with feel that Merle passed the baton onto them," the pastor said. "Now that Merle has given you the baton, do something with it."
Following the church service, Phillips was laid to rest at Orchard Hills Cemetery, Shamokin Dam, where he was buried with military honors.