Local veteran, firefighter remembered as hero
Updated 12:21 am, Friday, February 17, 2017
WILTON — “Dedicated,” “passionate,” “heroic” — these were but a few of the words that people overwhelmingly resorted to when describing the type of man Philip Reeves had been in life.
Reeves may have lost his battle to cancer last week on Feb. 7, but those who knew him best say that even in his direst of moments, Reeves managed to go out on his own terms.
“He never felt sorry for himself. The way he dealt with his illness with dignity is something we could all aspire to,” said Westport Deputy Chief Robert Kepchar, who had worked with Reeves in the 1980s.
“He was a great guy and dedicated worker who certainly always told you what he thought,” laughed Kepchar. “He took his job very seriously — the kind of guy who always made sure that he did his best on every call he ever went out on.”
This passion for firefighting was kindled in Reeves more than 40 years ago when he first joined the Wilton Volunteer Fire Department. It was as a volunteer that Reeves found not only his calling in life, but also a few lifelong friends.
“I’m just speechless,” said Ralph Nathanson, the apparatus supervisor for the Wilton Fire Department, who was still trying to process the loss of his dear friend. “Phil was the real deal. They don’t come along too often, people like Phil. He was extremely brilliant, and it’s just a real loss.”
As an Army aviator, Reeves constantly displayed the same dedication and passion for which he was remembered by his firefighting colleagues.
After completing his obligations to the U.S. Army, which included a tour in the Republic of Korea, Reeves transferred to the Massachusetts National Guard, where he remained until his death, achieving the rank of chief warrant officer 5 as the state aviation safety officer.
Never one to shirk an obligation, Reeves also later served two tours in Iraq as a MEDEVAC helicopter pilot.
In 1994, Phil joined the Bridgeport Fire Department, where he held various positions, from pumper engineer and fire lieutenant all the way to safety officer and battalion chief's aide, before retiring in 2016.
“The committee was surprised and saddened by his resignation and his sudden passing. He lived a life of community service and brought his spirit of commitment, integrity and care for his communities to his work on the committee. We will miss his contributions and his friendship,” said Richard McCarty, who heads the panel.
Reeves is survived by his wife Robyn Hapke, his daughter Rebecca of Keene, N.H. and son Isaac of Wilton. He is also survived by his mother Sarah of Walpole, N.H.; sister Leslie Kanerva of Springfield, Vt.; sister Cynthia and her partner Ray Ruseckas of Walpole, N.H. and brother Ted, of Springfield, Vt.
A funeral service will take place at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 48 New Canaan Road, on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Bridgeport Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the USO or the veteran's service organization of your choice.