By Cassie Weiss
For five years one man has built up an organization, working as the executive director, filling the hearts of those he encountered with a feel-good attitude.
Bob Phillips, who has been a part of the South East Alberta Watershed Alliance (SEAWA), passed away suddenly on Oct. 23, leaving heavy hearts and many tears in his wake.
“He was with SEAWA for five years to the day,” said Peter Wallis, long-time director and treasurer of the organization.
“SEAWA itself was only a few months old at the time. Our first job was to hire an executive director. He was very much involved in getting things set up.”
Initially bringing forth much of the organization for boards, Phillips dealt with many of the policies, as well as making connections with other WPACS in surrounding regions.
“He helped us set direction. We put out a number of workshops and conferences that he organized completely by himself, he was the guy in charge.”
Passing just before SEAWA’s biggest event of the year, the Below Your Watershed conference, Phillips’ absence left many at a loss.
“A good deal of that was his inspiration.”
With Phillips also closely involved in SEAWA’s student program, Wallis explained they have always had a strong student component.
“Many of these kids will grow up and stay in Medicine Hat, and will remember [their experience], and maybe become a part. Our ambition and our mandate is to be an information source.”
Due to his close involvement with students, Phillips enjoyed the opportunity to mold the young minds, teaching them about the many facets of the watershed.
Phillips, who was 58 years old at the time of his passing, originated from Saskatchewan, ending up in Calgary, before moving down to Medicine Hat for his executive director position.
“He was pretty outgoing. He had a strong outdoor interest. His family had a cottage on a spot by a lake in Saskatchewan that was near and dear to his heart. He would be there a lot when he was on holiday.”
The kind of guy SEAWA needed, Phillips became much more than just an employee.
“He was kind. He was always thinking about people. We had to tell him to stop buying people present.”
Treating the company as his own, Wallis said any chance Phillips had to promote SEAWA, he would be doing it.
With the scramble to put on last month’s conference while dealing with the loss of a great man, SEAWA named Maggie Romuld, who had been SEAWA’s watershed coordinator, the interim executive director.
As Oct. 31 was SEAWA’s fiscal end, there were many reports that had to be wrapped up and submitted to the provincial government.
“We are very lucky to have Maggie. She has a very similar background to Bob, and she is well informed in environmental issues. Fortunately, she is able to step in on short notice.”
Currently working part time for SEAWA, while working with her other full time jobs, Wallis said it is to be decided the future for SEAWA once the busyness dies down a bit.
“Having her in place is huge for us. The board will have to decide.”
Although Wallis knows Romuld will fill the large shoes very well, there is no doubt that Phillips loss will be one not soon forgotten.
“He will be greatly missed. No doubt about it.”
Phillips was survived by his wife Brenda and two grown children. At his request, there was no funeral service. In lieu of flowers donations could be made to SEAWA in his honour (3271 Dunmore Road S.E., 721 – Unit 3, Medicine Hat, Alberta T1B 3R2).
Wallis also explained there is talk about creating a scholarship in Phillips’ name, but nothing has been confirmed.