“There are givers and takers in this world and Phil Power is and has been for many decades a big-time giver for this community. He stops what he is doing to help others.”
The words were spoken two years ago by former Town Councilman Ed Brown, presenting the Lions Club Citizen of the Year Award to his friend, Phil Power.
It wasn’t the first time in his years on Shelter Island that Phil has been honored. In 2011, he was named Emergency Medical Technician of the Year after 35 years with the Emergency Medical Services. That came on top of a 1999 Firefighter of the Year Award.
Mr. Brown recalled speaking with the late — and revered — Ben Jones about the volunteer service Phil had given to the community, a few years before he was honored by the Lions Club.
Mr. Jones was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at an EMS dinner, but took time to tell his fellow volunteers that one person in the room had accomplished a “hat trick,” giving service to three entities — the ambulance squad, the Fire Department and the Board of Fire Commissioners.
“Phil is a regular guy, you may even call him an ordinary guy, but when you look beneath the surface, you can safely say he is the guy who does extraordinary things every day of his life,” Dr. Frank Adipietro said. Dr. Adipietro is medical director for the Shelter Island Emergency Medical Services.
“He wakes up every day and says, ‘What can I do to help the other guy? What can I do to make a difference? What can I do for my community?” Dr. Adipietro said.
“Phil puts a lot of energy into what he does” and has “a determined approach,” Mr. Brown said.
He has known his friend since the two were teenagers and Phil was helping his dad, Jerome Power, at Ketcham’s Store, which was located at the site of today’s Tuck Shop. He said of his friend, “he can come across as gruff but behind that persona there is a lot of heart.”
Phil served four years in the United States Navy and joined the Fire Department here in 1974. He had grown up in Queens, but since his mother, Roseanne Smith, had grown up on the Island, he and his siblings spent a lot of time here visiting their grandmother at her Congdon Creek home.
Prior to coming to the Island, he had joined the Bellerose Terrace Fire Department in 1968 at age 18.
Through the years as a member of the Shelter Island Fire Department, Phil served as captain of several trucks and as department lieutenant. He was chief between 1976 and 1978 and was involved in the efforts of merging the Heights and Center departments into one unit. That was finalized in the 1990s, when Phil had become a fire commissioner.
He helped launch the Shelter Island Dive Team and has been safety officer of the Fire Department and captain of the Dive Team.
In 1977, Phil joined the Shelter Island Red Cross, training and earning certification as an advanced emergency medical technician and becoming assistant chief of the Ambulance Squad and Chief of the Shelter Island Emergency Medical Services.
LEAN ON HIM
Mr. Brown and another friend, Steve Lenox, recalled incidents where Phil walked the extra mile for them, coming to their aid and helping their families.
Mr. Brown recalled two such incidents. In one case, he was laid up for a couple of months following an accident, but Phil handled a number of matters for him and did so willingly and graciously.
A second incident involved a time when Mr. Brown was out of town on business and his wife was checking on some houses of part-time Islanders. A break-in occurred at one and rather than have Ms. Brown respond, Mr. Brown was able to call on Phil who showed up and handled the situation.
For Mr. Lenox, who has known Phil since they were teenagers, it was a cardiac emergency to which Mr. Power responded. Mr. Lenox recalled feeling relieved at seeing his friend on the response team, confident he was in good hands and grateful that his friend was there in the aftermath to assist with matters while Mr. Lenox was recovering.
In the early 1970s, Phil was tending bar at the Candlelight Inn, when Phyllis Clark came in with her fiancé who, according to Phil, “was sitting in the corner like a lump,” possibly because the couple had just broken up.
Full of confidence if not tact, he asked Phyllis, “Who’s the [deleted] in the corner?” and added, “One of the worst things you could ever do is get married.”
In spite of Phil’s advice to Phyllis, the couple married in 1976. They have two daughters, Theresa and Sharon, both graduates of the Shelter Island School, where Phyllis has taught music since 1978.
For the man who works the hardest but seems to prefer remaining on the sidelines when it comes to recognition, and for all he has given and continues to give, Phil Power is the Reporter’s Person of the Year for 2019.