Tom was born on May 24, 1935 in Cleveland, Ohio to William & Helen Phillipp. (His maternal grandfather was a contractor who built Gothic-style Catholic churches and his paternal grandfather and father owned Phillipp’s Church Goods stores in the Midwest). The youngest of three children, life changed dramatically for Tom at age 8 when his father died and the family moved to Fort Wayne, IN to be closer to extended family. His teenage years and religious convictions were heavily influenced by his boarding school attendance at Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, WI.
After graduating St. Joseph’s College with majors in Math and Physics, and Purdue University with an Electrical Engineering degree, Tom embarked on a lifelong Engineering career in Aerospace in 1957. He moved to Florida where he, like so many newly-graduated young engineers, was snatched up by Douglas Aeronautics and a year later, General Dynamics, to begin work on America’s space program. He worked on Project Mercury, the first human space flight program in the United States. Specifically, he was a Test Engineer for John Glenn’s Space Flight. This program taught NASA how to put a spacecraft into earth’s orbit and how men could live and work in space. Next, he worked in Mission Control for Project Gemini. These missions taught us rendezvous docking and extravehicular activity, all critical precursors to the Apollo Space Program that followed. In 1966, Tom transferred to Convair in San Diego and worked as head of Quality Engineering on the Cruise Missile Program and the F111/F16 and Space Shuttle fuselages.
Prior to moving to Florida, he met the love of his life, Elizabeth Marie Just, and they wed in 1958. Over their 65-year marriage, they raised five children: daughter Kathy (Ron) Medenwald, son Tom Jr. (Marie) Phillipp, daughter Suzanne (Jim) Lancaster, daughter Julie (Bob) Lowrie, son Tim (Kay) Phillipp. He later became the proud “Papa” of 14 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. His somewhat-lonely childhood made family life extremely important to him and he treasured our big get-togethers.
The Phillipp family found their spiritual home at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church and School in 1970. Over the many years, Tom gave tirelessly to this community as a Eucharistic Minister and Lector, Member of the School Board, Parish Council & Parish Advisory Board, and Knights of Columbus. He fostered the faith & educational development of his children with enrollment at OLG school.
Tom retired in 1991 and he and Betty travelled extensively, specifically enjoying (32!) cruises. From Europe to Asia, through Panama and up to Alaska, they travelled and explored the world. He always loved history and geography. He learned to sail and also spent some time transporting large RV units across country for La Mesa RV.
Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2006, he remained peacefully content at home until just this past June. His gradual decline was accepted with humility and grace. On Nov. 8, he passed peacefully into his eternal home, undoubtedly accompanied by the Holy Mother, Mary, to whom he had a lifelong devotion.
Thomas was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Marianne Baxter and his brother William Phillipp.
“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words”
In lieu of flowers, we ask you to consider making a donation in Tom's name to Alzheimer's San Diego at this link: Alzheimer's San Diego