After More Than 40 Years, The Philadelphia Parade Committee’s Money Man Hands In His Ledger
How long has Paul J. Phillips Jr. been involved in the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade?
“Longer than I’ve been alive,” says son Chris Phillips, current recording secretary of the St. Patrick’s Day Obervance Association. Chris was born in 1963. His dad became treasurer of the association in 1962. Aside from a couple of years when he served as president (1989-1990), Paul Phillips has been treasurer ever since.
Phillips recently retired from the position, handing over the reins to Leonard Armstrong.
He wasn’t expecting to be treasurer for quite so long. “They asked me to do it on a temporary basis, and I did,” he says. But the Philadelphia parade is the sort of thing that stirs passions and inspires deep loyalty. So for more than 40 years, the 86-year-old Gray’s Ferry native and Southeast Catholic alum diligently watched over the finances of the nation’s second-oldest parade of any kind.
It was never an easy job, his son says—and over the years, it got harder. But Paul Phillips was equal to the task.
“He’s always been a man who kept good records,” says Chris, who recalls his father showing up at his last meeting as treasurer with the same leather-bound ledger he inherited upon becoming the association treasurer. In the early going, the parade was relatively small. But, says Chris, “over the year’s it’s grown, and he’s had to deal with managing large amounts of money every year. Keeeping all of that together has been a stretch sometimes.”
Though the job was difficult, the unflappable treasurer apparently took it all in stride. For that, he says he owes a debt of gratitude to current and past colleagues on the board. “I’ve always had a great deal of cooperation from the other board members,” Phillips says. He remembers many of them with great fondness, and he counts himself lucky for all the friendships he made on and off the board, including such notables as former mayors James Tate and Bill Green.
For his partners on the board, the feeling is mutual. They honored him Thursday night for his many years of service. (Happily for everyone involved, he’ll remain on the executive committee.)
As he accepted a large plaque from association President Michael F. Callahan, Phillips took a moment to reflect on all those years of service. “I thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “I loved it.”