John Phillips

Celebration of Life

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Rockaway Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall
35 Church St.
Rockaway, New Jersey, United States

Obituary of John Russell Phillips

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John “Jack” Russell Phillips

April 28, 1934 – April 19, 2024

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” Matthew 25:21

John “Jack” Russell Phillips passed away at home just shy of his 90th birthday leaving behind a legacy of memories with family, friends and the Rockaway, NJ community where he was seen as the “Unofficial Mayor”.

Born on April 28, 1934 in the Green Ridge section of Scranton, PA, Jack was the only child of the late J. Russell and Mildred Phillips. Jack’s childhood centered around traditional family values with an emphasis on education and independence.  

After graduation from Central High School in Scranton, Jack attended Bloomsburg University, known at the time as Bloomsburg State Teachers College.  Upon graduation, he served his country in the Army Reserves at Fort Knox.  While there, he became friends with NFL Hall of Fame player Raymond Berry, staying in touch over the years.  Also during at this time, he attended The Kentucky Derby although it was rumored his favored horse did not win, place or show!

Jack moved to New Jersey to begin his 40-year career in Education at the Rockaway Borough School District and eventually earned his Masters in Education from William Paterson University. Jack progressed in the district as a Mathematics Teacher, Guidance Counselor, Principal and finally Superintendent. Jack’s impact to the schools and community was so great that upon his retirement in 1998, a wing of Thomas Jefferson Middle School was named for him.  With his easy-going nature, Jack formed lifelong friendships with students, fellow teachers and staff throughout his career. Students who regularly kept in touch included two four-star generals along with the generations of students he taught. 

During Jack’s carefree bachelor days, he spent summers as a lifeguard at Parks Lake and umpired baseball and softball games. It was also during this time he became a passionate New York Football Giants fan. Jack regularly attended games with various groups of friends for over 50 years and was a season ticket holder for the past 30.  As a Giants fan, Jack saw it all from attending Super Bowl XXI in Pasadena to having visit from then team owner Wellington Mara during a tailgate in the 80s. 

Jack’s favorite activity was skiing and he was an avid skier up until age 85. As a member of several ski clubs, he skied Europe, Canada, the Rockies and New England. Vail, Colorado was his favorite winter resort having been over 17 times. Jack also enjoyed golfing with friends as the scarred courses in North Jersey can attest!  He fulfilled a lifelong ambition by attending the Masters Tournament and visiting the famed St. Andrews Links.

In retirement, Jack enjoyed spending time with his family, working at a golf course, travelling and being around his many friends. He was a lifelong Freemason with the Masonic Temple and a member of First Presbyterian Church in Rockaway for over 60 years.  

Later in life, his greatest joy was spending time with his granddaughter, Kiki.  During their frequent visits together in West Chester, PA he indulged his notorious sweet tooth with Kiki on Amish Market donuts along with innumerous visits to ice cream parlors. They also enjoyed many trips to New York City, Princeton and Longwood Gardens where “Grampy” would dote on Kiki. Among his favorite experiences was skiing with Kiki in the Poconos.

Until very recently, one of Jack’s greatest joys was enjoying morning coffee with his buddies. The camaraderie with these friends helped lift his spirits and gave him something to look forward to each day. Their friendships extended beyond the walls of where they gathered. 

Jack leaves behind his devoted wife of 54 years Kay (Catherine), daughters Kimberly Phillips, Carrie (Steven) Simunov, granddaughter Kiki, several “younger” Phillips cousins; Jack (Sandee) Barrett, Tim (Yanqin) Barrett, Kevin (Vicki) Barrett, Pat (Louise) Barrett, (Deena) Barrett and Mari (Robert) Madden, sister-in-law Maureen Thorburn and her children and grandchildren.  Jack is pre-deceased by his son, Scott, brother-in-law William Thorburn, and cousin Brian Barrett.  

By far, Jack’s biggest legacy was his role as an Educator and School Administrator.  Jack lived and worked in the same community and had a profound impact on many generations of families.  As the unofficial mayor of Rockaway, Jack was a pillar of the community. 

To honor Jack’s wishes, services will be private.  A Celebration of Life ceremony will be held on Tuesday, April 23nd in Fellowship Hall at First Presbyterian Church of Rockaway, 35 Church Street, Rockaway, NJ 07866.  Ceremony will begin at 3:00 PM followed by a gathering of family and friends.

Memorial donations in Jack’s memory can be made to First Presbyterian Church of Rockaway, 35 Church Street, Rockaway, NJ 07866 or online

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