Melvin “Keith” Phillips, 67, died Saturday, April 19 in his Modesto home with his wife by his side after a courageous battle with prostate cancer.
He was born in Salinas on Oct. 20, 1946 to Sherman and Helen Phillips. The family eventually relocated to Butte City, California where he grew up and spent many happy days fishing and hunting with his father. He attended Princeton High School and after graduating, attended California State University, Chico, where he earned his BA in education. Upon obtaining his teaching credential, “Keith” began his teaching career with the Escalon Unified School District in February 1971 at Van Allen Elementary School. In September 1971 he transferred to the newly completed El Portal Middle School in Escalon where he taught wood shop, as well as a variety of other subjects over the years. He was dedicated to his students and worked hard to bring out the best in each of them. He retired from teaching in June 2005, after 34½ years with the district.
In 1979, he met and married Kathy (Hall) Harrell. They lived in Modesto raising their two children, Jeff Phillips and Michelle Harrell. His love for fishing and hunting continued into his adult years, taking him all over the state as well as hunting trips to Arkansas and some annual trips to Canada. The only thing he enjoyed more was a good round of golf with his buddies, or going to a good movie with his wife and friends.
Mr. Phillips was devoted to his family and adored all his grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
He attended Prescott Evangelical Free Church where he served as an usher, greeting everyone with a warm smile and a big hug for the ladies. He served many years by also organizing and setting up weekly refreshments for the Adult Bible Fellowship Group and shortly before his passing taught the Bible study portion of the same group. He loved his Lord, his church and his church family. He found great comfort in their love and support throughout his illness. Serving God was definitely a priority in his life.
He will be remembered as a warm and loving man with a great sense of humor; nothing pleased him more than to make people smile and laugh.
Survivors include his wife, Kathy; daughter Michelle (Arjan) Oechies of Amersfoort, the Netherlands; a brother, Alvin Phillips of Mission Viejo; four grandchildren, Nathan Millsap of Turlock, Scott Phillips of Modesto, and Emma and Anneke Oechies of Amersfoort; one great-granddaughter, Baylee Millsap of Turlock; and several nieces, nephews and great nieces and great nephews.
He was preceded in death by his father, Sherman Phillips; his mother, Helen (Phillips) Sutton; step-father Walter Sutton; brother Jimmy Phillips; and son, Jeffery Phillips.
A private graveside service will be held at Burwood Cemetery, Escalon.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at Prescott Evangelical Free Church, corner of Prescott and West Rumble roads, Modesto, at 11 a.m. on May 17. Lunch will be served immediately following.
The family requests that any and all remembrances be sent to Prescott Evangelical Free Church at 3000 Prescott Road, Modesto, CA 95350-0221 or Optimal Hospice at 1101 Sylvan Ave., Modesto, CA 95350.
The Escalon (Calif.) Times
May 7, 2014