Phil Rutledge | Condolences

This was emailed to all Phoenix on the day of Phil's accident. The many condolences that flooded in immediately afterward are intended for Phil's wife Diane and their children and family, and to be shared by all of us who knew Phil and will always remember him.

[6/13/03] TO THE PHOENIX: Ringing the bell for Phil Rutledge guys, Phoenix 38 died this morning in an ag helicopter crash here in Porterville.
Preliminary reports are sketchy, I'll relay more after the NTSB has done their thing. In any case, this certainly seems poignant considering the upcoming memorial for Tom Doody in Colorado. Phil and I went to high school together. We were rakes and chased the same girls, took those willing out to drive-in movies nearly 40 years ago, he eventually married a girl from our same senior class. Times were different then. In college he managed to remain in the fun circuit a while longer than I was able to pull off, but when Uncle Sam finally caught up Phil followed me to Army Flight School.
   Shortly after the chaos of Lam Son in early 1971, I was somehow able to squeeze in a short R&R back to the World. Phil was home too and had just received his wings at Rucker, he was headed for RVN. My advice was to find a cushy REMF (rear) assignment if he could, but if he should by any chance find himself in the 101st he should "ask for the Phoenix." I told him our mission assignments were tough, our losses high, and our living conditions crummy, but we always had beer and there was no better unit or bunch of guys to fly with - a youthful bravado that essentially shaped many of our lives. A few weeks later I came in from a mission one afternoon and found a note from Phil on my bunk, he had become the newest Phoenix replacement pilot. What were the odds???
   Phil was there after all of us, during the final stand-down from Evans. I've heard him tell the story of how, on the last night, they had a party in the club and took down the big Phoenix bird from over the stage. They wrote the name of every Phoenix anyone could remember on it, then took it out back and burned it. From the ashes ye shall rise again.
   Phil sat here in my office a couple weeks ago, we shot the bull for about an hour. He said he was getting tired of the headaches in ag flying, and had just spent the weekend in beautiful Santa Barbara looking into a new business and fresh start. He said he was looking forward to hanging up his wings, as I did nearly 20 years ago to pursue something entirely different. I was moved thinking about the prospects and risks in a full-on change at our "advanced rank" in life, but sometimes ya just gotta go for it and Phil was ready.
   We planned to caravan to Fruita. Asih and I are going to spend a few additional days in Colorado, so Phil and I had decided to drive separate cars but stop enroute for pit-stops, it would have added to the fun. The trip will feel a bit emptier now, like a missing-man formation. Phil had made a few VHPA conventions, but this will be the largest Phoenix turnout since Lincoln, Chicago, KC or DC, and he had missed all of those. He told me he was really looking forward to this trip and reunion.
   Asih called Phil's wife Diane this afternoon. They have two grown children, both returning home now, we expect the rites to be sometime next week, we'll be there as friend and fellow Phoenix. My sister just phoned, her children went to school with Phil and Diane's. I spent the early afternoon hoping the initial news reports weren't true.
   Stuff happens. Phil won't have to worry about the headaches in commercial flying any more, and we will miss him. He was always a good-hearted, good-natured, and easy-going guy, and even though he arrived slightly too late for much of the action out of Evans he loved and seriously respected the heritage of the Phoenix.
   Therefore, the Phoenix once again returns to ashes one of its own. I've already hoisted a few Buds to Phil this afternoon and intend to add a few more, as he or any of us would expect. He's also left a few more unclaimed coldies for us in Fruita than we might have expected, so let's be sure to drink up Phil's share when we get there, he would never approve of wasting good beer.
   None of us know what fate has in store for us, but Phil at least died with his boots on, and he enjoyed many more years than those we lost on foreign soil back when the Earth was young. Cheers Phil, here's to Phoenix 38... PS: See you at the Big Club pal, save a stool for me, I'm eager to hear your best "There I Was" story - but you'll have to ring the bell for that one. :) -Ted Olson (Phoenix 65)

[6/13/03] Fruita has a whole new meaning [now], doesn't it? -Dean Grau (Phoenix 60)

[6/13/03] That's absolutely horrible! I know we are all getting up there in years but we still have a long way to go. I feel very bad for his family. After awhile we take flying for granted. I had a crop dusting business with a buddy and he got killed in the craft after about a year. The clue that Phil was getting frazzled, was that he relayed to you that he wanted to get out of the business. Again, I'm very sorry. -Dave Snyder (Phoenix 48)

[6/13/03] Sorry to hear about your friend. I know you will miss him. -Robert Scarbrough (Phoenix 54)

[6/14/03] Ted, the thoughts and prayers of Pat and I go out to his and the Phoenix family. Sorry that we'll be at VHPA and unable to pull of a trip to Fruita. At this very moment, I hold high an icy cold one in his memory. -Steve Smith (Redskin 16, Nov69-Oct70)

[6/14/03] Very sorry to hear the news, met Phil those last days of the stand down, I was the last Phoenix (EM) to leave the company area at Evans. He was a nice person, know he will be missed. -Charles King II (Phoenix C/E 64-13736, MSG Ret)

[6/14/03] What a shock! I never knew Phil except for the few e-mails we exchanged about the shirts, but it sounds like he was an exceptional person. Our condolences to Phil's family and on your personal loss of a good friend. This is a very trivial thing under the circumstances, but I'll give you Phil and Diane's shirts when I see you in Fruita. -Dick Oder (Phoenix C/E 065)

[6/14/03] This is an emotionally mixed message. I just deleted Phil Rutledge from my list & added Don Mears. I had met Phil last year at the VHPA reunion in Vegas. He was somewhat overwhelmed at meeting so many Phoenix and Redskins so I know he was looking forward to the reunion in Fruita. What a bummer. I'm sure this is truly tragic for you & your family due to the close ties. It's hard to lose a friend you've grown up with. I've lost 3 & they are difficult at best. They may be gone in body but they will always be with us in spirit. You will always think of Phil like I will always think of my friends. Those fond memories never go away. Your tribute to your friendship with Phil was very moving . Thanks for sharing that with us. Take care & see you in Fruita. -Ken Mayberry (Phoenix 50)

[6/14/03] Tremendous words! I appreciate you writing it, and more especially I appreciate you passing it for us to read. -Skip Butler (Redskin 15)

[6/14/03] Please tell his family we are all truly sorry for their loss, I will go on post Monday and get a brick for the Phoenix "Pathway of Legends." Maybe you and Asih could bring Diane to Fruita to let her know we don't forget. -Butch Doan (Phoenix 64)

[6/14/03] I was very sorry to hear your news about Phil. I did not know him since I was in and out before Jan 1971. My thoughts are with his family and you as his friend. Thanks for the commo. I also regret not being able to join you all in Fruita this year. -Randy Goulette (Phoenix 29)

[6/14/03] I was very moved reading your email about Phil. Unfortunately, with time, we will experience losses. Knowing this doesn't make it any easier. Both Rita and I are very sorry to hear of the loss of a fellow Phoenix and your close freind. -Pat McKeany (Phoenix 62)

[6/14/03] I'm very sad this evening. What a terrible thing to happen to a great guy as I remember him to have been while serving with him. He called me out of the blue about 15 years ago when he saw my mug in a "Flying" magazine article and apologized again for sticking the tail of our aircraft in a tree while on short final to some forgotten mountain top firebase that I was "allowing" him fly into as a relatively new Peter Pilot. I was so looking forward to regaling every one present in Fruita about that incident. The humor of it all seems to have lost its steam for me at the present. Ted I empathize for you and his family, who I never met. I hadn't realized you went back with him that long ago. What I read from your eulogy was quite elegant. Selfishly, I'm going to miss the guy I haven't seen in 30 plus years and really was anticipating messing with him once again. Keep your rotor in the green Phil, I'll miss you. -Jeff Bulmer (Phoenix 37)

[6/14/03] Sorry to hear of the loss of your good friend and Phoenix unit member. All of us will miss and remember Phil. -John Jenkins (Phoenix 6)

[6/15/03] This is a repeat of pictures that I received from Tom Marshall and had forwarded to a few earlier. I thought it might be appropriate because of our loss of Phil Rutledge, and didn't know if you had any recent pictures handy. Thanks for the well written message about the passing of your good friend, I only shook hands with him once, but appreciate hearing more about him from your note. -Larry Frazier (Phoenix C/E 611/389)

[6/15/03] I didn't know Phil until your outstanding message. Now I feel his loss also, but not as much as his good friend, Ted, who loved him and shared so much of this good life with him. My thoughts are with you and my prayers are with Phil's Family. Thanks, Ted. -Bob Marrs (Phoenix 13)

[6/15/03] Incredibly well written!!!!!!! Never met Phil. Still, you have me in tears. -John Kamps (Phoenix 56)

[6/15/03] I knew him, flew with him, and really looked forward to seeing him again. He will be missed. May God bless his soul. -Rick Scrugham (Phoenix 23)

[6/15/03] Sorry about the news of Phil. Though I was one of the 68/69 originals and don't remember meeting Phil, we will all feel the loss of a brother Phoenix. Keep the faith, -Roy "Twiggy" Miller (Phoenix 61)

[6/16/03] Great job on your thoughts on Phil Rutledge, just sorry you had to do it. -Jack Glennon (Phoenix 51)

[6/16/03] Reflecting once again after a couple of single malt scotches and a quality cigar what I remembered about Phil. I try and limit my tears to special events, last night was one of them. See ya in a couple of weeks. -Jeff Bulmer (Phoenix 37)

[6/16/03] There's a Phoenix magic we all are stuck with, and have been for some decades. A big part of that is Phil following you to the Phoenix, and his becoming a collector of Phoenix history in addition to his other duties. I remember talking to him a lot about it, and I remember that a collection of war stories became for Phil a somewhat coherent unit history; a foundation which doubtless helped supply the absolute genius necessary for his consummate "creation" of a final magic stroke with the [burning of the] wondrous club emblem - a fiery and perfect unitary departure for us all under Phil's leadership. It was a stoke of genius. -Dean Grau (Phoenix 60)

[6/17/03] To Jim Doody - "When the Phoenix have gotten together over the years, a part of our activity is always to remember those we've lost along the way. The loss of Phil while he was on the way to one of these gatherings with us will be on all the Phoenix minds present. I'm wondering if someplace in the ceremonies you could make time for mention of this, and a eulogy for Phil? You can be sure that we will handle all the details if you just make the time available; and you can be pretty sure Ted Olson will be our nominee for the task." -Dean Grau (Phoenix 60)

[6/20/03] Ted - it was good to see you again [at Phil's funeral 6/19/03]. There are so many faces to which I don't have names. When I saw you yesterday, the '71 Olson floated to the surface of my memory. It is good and right and proper that so many folks showed to pay respect to Phil. Listening to people remember him and speak on what he meant to them, how he made their lives better just be being there, allows me to own his memory with greater authority. Sometimes I think, well this is what I remember, but is it what really happened? About a thousand folks showed up yesterday to say, "Yup, he was a like a light shining in the darkness for us, too." Welcome home, brother. -John Joyner (Redskin 58)

[7/3/03] Sorry to hear about Phil. I do remember him. Send my condolences to the family, thanks. -Mike Cataldo (Phoenix 45)

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