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Published: Thursday, 10/7/2004

Fire marshal had been Tiffin chief for 3 years

TIFFIN - Robert Frederick Phillips, 85, a retired Tiffin fire chief who was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, died of kidney failure Sunday in Elmwood Assisted Living at the Shawhan here.

He was a firefighter with the Tiffin Fire Department from 1944 until retiring as chief in 1976. He later was a state fire marshal from 1976 until 1986, when he retired.

"He was best-liked because he would work with everybody, and he had a lot of good ideas as far as fire prevention [goes], especially for the Tiffin area," his son, James Phillips, said.

At the time, Tiffin was a growing city, and Mr. Phillips felt there should be a third fire station. But times changed and, as Tiffin's population started to decline in the late 1970s, the idea was abandoned, James Phillips said.

A Tiffin native, Mr. Phillips graduated from Calvert High School in about 1936. He delivered groceries for the former Gray and White Co., Tiffin, until about 1940, when he enlisted in the Navy. Later that year, he married Martha Steyer. They were married 62 years.

In World War II, Mr. Phillips served on a supply ship in the South Pacific until 1944, when he separated from the Navy.

Once back home, he joined the Tiffin Fire Department, following in the footsteps of his father, the late Frederick Phillips, who was a mechanic with the department. The two served together for a year before the elder Mr. Phillips retired, James Phillips said.

Over the years, Mr. Phillips rose through the ranks to become fire chief in 1973 and led the department for three years.

In 1976, when Mr. Phillips retired as chief, he started as a fire marshal without taking a vacation between jobs. He conducted fire inspections of public buildings in Lucas, Wood, and Seneca counties until his final retirement.

In retirement, Mr. Phillips enjoyed golfing at Seneca Hills golf course in Tiffin, fishing Lake Erie, and flying model airplanes.

Mr. Phillips was a lifetime member of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Tiffin; the Ohio Association of Fire Chiefs; International Association of Fire Chiefs; the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 402, Knights of Columbus 608, and Calvert Boosters.

Surviving are his wife, Martha; sons, Ronald, James, and William; daughters, Jane Sheeley and Nancy McKillip; sister, Thelma Gurklis; 12 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today in St. Joseph Catholic Church. Arrangements are by Hoffmann-Gottfried Funeral Home, Tiffin.

The family suggests tributes to Financial Assistance For Cancer Treatment (F.A.C.T.) in Tiffin or Calvert High School.



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