Near daylight Thursday, September 5, 2013, Philip Wright Govedare slipped peacefully away from his loving family at his Ashland home. After 92 richly satisfying years and 67 years of marriage to his college sweetheart, Virginia Pease Govedare, he departed from this earth, which he deeply cherished.
Phil, as his friends and his five grandchildren knew him, first opened his eyes in Chicago, Ill., March 2, 1921, to Spiro and Lucretia Govedare. He attended Glenbard High in suburban Glen Ellyn, took degrees in English and Sociology at North Central College in Naperville, Ill., and earned a master's degree in English literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana, Illinois.
His lifelong love of literature and the written word determined his teaching career of 38 years. He often quoted his lawyer grandfather's statement that "above all I enjoy a well-turned phrase." After marrying in 1946, the young couple moved to Sioux City, Iowa, where Phil taught English and Sociology at Morningside College. A few years later Phil and Virginia adventured their way to California, where Phil took courses at U. C. Berkeley.
Phil then accepted a post teaching English at the Oregon Technical Institute in Klamath Falls, Ore. The family was now able to live in the woods which Phil so loved at the former "mile-high campus" outside of town. It was a happy time, as the children could explore the woods with their father and run wild through the deserted Marine hospital buildings surrounding the abandoned parade ground.
After several years Phil was recruited to become part of the original faculty of five at the new Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, Ore. As the only English professor, he set up the library, handled publications, and directed plays (notably "Glass Menagerie") and plays by Edward Albee, Chekhov, etc. In his 23 years there, as the college expanded and developed, so did Phil's reputation as a truly exceptional and beloved teacher. His booming voice, as he lectured, resonated down the halls outside the classroom, and he sometimes turned out the classroom lights to stimulate discussions. Many students became lifelong friends who have said that knowing him changed their lives.
Phil wrote deeply compelling poetry, some published, but as he often said, that was not the point. He taught himself Spanish. He was a frightening Scrabble player in his earlier years and avid at tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. He loved camping, fishing, and swimming, but above all, long walks in the woods. He was a true philosopher who maintained a sense of wonder and fascination about life's mystery and ultimate purpose. A very few weeks ago, Phil pushed his walker into Lithia Park in Ashland to see the resident owl.
He loved storytelling and play, especially with children, no matter how undignified he appeared when rolling on the ground or running through the sprinkler. He delighted in humor, from the intelligent to the ridiculous. His quick, sometimes wicked wit was evident till the very end of his life.
Phil's deep concerns for all of humanity and the environment, and his opposition to war and killing, were themes he wove into his teaching. He was an activist during the Vietnam war, marching with his teenage son sixty miles, from Ontario, Ore. to Boise, Idaho, for a rally at the statehouse. He taught his children love of nature, compassion for others, kindness to all creatures, and to think critically of consumerism. He was a uniquely endearing and decent man who will not be forgotten by those who knew him well.
Mr. Govedare is survived by his wife, Virginia of Ashland, and his sister, Lucretia Smith and her husband, Alford of Ashland. Surviving children and spouses are as follows: Susan Govedare Pulliam and George Pulliam III of Houston, Texas; Philip B. Govedare and Christine Lambert of Seattle, Wash.; and Ellen Govedare and John Clem of Seattle, Wash. The surviving grandchildren are DeLisle Merrill of Pittsburg, Eloise Govedare of New York City, Edward Clem of Seattle, Philip J. Clem of Seattle, and Juliette Clem of Seattle.
The family has celebrated Phil's life privately.