Phillips Is Gone, The Caboose Is A Reminder Of His Love For The Monon
It all started when I cam across a grave in a local cemetery. The monumnet was most unusal, black granite with a picture of a Monon caboose on one side and a photo of the deceased and his wife on the other. My curiosity took over. Who was this man? Why would he want a railroad caboose on his monument?
Knowing that his work record was not on our master list of former Monon employees, I began my search. I was sure I would be able to get more information about the Phillips family who worked for the Monon.
I was able to locate a grandson first, but ran into problems when I talked to him. I had to convince him that I sought no personal gain, and my only intention was to preserve history for future generations by contributing information to the Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society, Inc. Understandably, he wanted to protect his grandmother from some kind of "shyster" or "flim flam man" who would try to cheat her out of her father's personal affects.
After talking with him a couple of times, I was able to gain his confidence, and he gave me his grandmother's phone number. I spoke to Mrs. Phillips by phone. She seemed like a very nice person and willing to share any information. Here is what I was able to learn concerning David Eugene Phillips.
Most people knew him as Eugene or Gene. He married his sweetheart when she was just 15 years old. They were together for 49 years. There were 6 children born to that marriage: David, Ricky, Beth, Terry, Mark and Tracy.
Gene hired out on the Monon in August 1963. He worked for the Maintenance Of Way at McDoel. He held several jobs over his work life, including section worker, foreman and welder. His two brothers also worked Maintenance Of Way for the Monon at McDoel. Joe Phillips, who later worked train crews for the L&N, and R.C. Phillips, who found other employment at the time of the merger.
Gene stayed with the railroad after the merger with the L&N in July 1971 and then retired from CSX in September 1989.
Janna Phillips told me her husband loved the Monon Railroad. He always said working for the Monon was the best part of his career. He was so happy with the photo of him on the Monon caboose. It was taken at the Depot Museum in Salem about a year before he passed away. It seemed only fitting to put it on his monument.
Mrs. Phillips confided in me that she felt Gene's real character came to the surface when he retired earlier than he originally intended. Gene suffered a diabetic blackout one day while he was working. Showing his true strength of character, Gene realized that his condition could endanger any of his fellow workers and so he decided he would have to retire.
This was just a glimpse into the life of a true Monon Man who deserves to be part of Monon Memories.
-Sharon Eberhard with Joseph Land-
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