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Phil’s Story

Welcome to our CaringBridge site. We've created it to keep friends and family updated. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement during this time when it matters most.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Phil went into the hospital unexpectedly on Monday, January 13.  He had finished a physical therapy session that morning and had gone to his car, but returned to the office because he was having difficulty operating the car.  His speech was slurred and he was taken to a hospital emergency room.  On Tuesday, January 14th, he underwent surgery for a mass on his brain.  About 90% of the mass was removed during surgery.  He has shown good responsiveness after surgery. There are still far more questions than answers at this point as the results of the biopsy revealed an aggressive brain tumor.

Terri and their children, Noah, Emma, Rachel and Hannah have joined the family at Phil's bedside. Hannah’s boyfriend (Zak) and Rachel’s fiance (Gary) flew home from a work trip to join the family.  The family asks for your prayers and thank everyone for all the support.  They feel truly blessed by the immediate care he's been provided.  We will try to keep you posted as we learn more.

Latest Journal Update

Update - Summer Joy !

Phil here…

It has been a very busy end of summer with many things to celebrate. Following a brief setback and seizure at the end of July, that prompted a medication change and additional speech/language and cognitive therapy, I’m continuing to bounce back once again. With great joy my MRI results on August 26th were stable. Fatigue and vision issues continue from treatment. The chemotherapy/clinical trials and treatment plan are continuing to produce positive results. Miracles are all around us!

During all my healing and recovery time, I have had a great opportunity to reflect on my personal priorities and made the decision to retire from my work as an Educational Specialist at the Department of Education. A time to celebrate, but I already miss the colleagues, teachers, students and parents that I have met over these years. There is so much more work to be done for professional development in the field of autism and positive behavioral supports and intervention, and I hope that I can continue to contribute in an alternate manner.

We have even more to celebrate in our family! Our daughter Rachel was married to Gary in a wonderful wedding ceremony and barn dance reception. Many of her friends and our family were able to celebrate with us from around the country, including her cousins from Germany. I was so happy to share her Father/Daughter dance, as well as my chances to dance again with each of my lovely daughters and beautiful wife.

With summer coming to an end, everyone is now back to jobs and school. I am looking forward to teaching my son to drive and navigating high school, as well as Emma working towards the completion of her degree, and the upcoming wedding of Hannah and Zak in June!

The last days of summer have brought great joy to our family!

We are grateful for the continued support and prayers from all of you. It has made a huge impact.


13 people hearted this



Mary Powell
By Mary Powell
It is good news to hear that the clinical trials and treatment plan are producing positive results in you health. Every day is a gift when you are feeling well. I hope the days ahead are good ones for you and your family.

Now to the subject of retirement, which is a hard one. I know you thought long about retiring. You know that I always felt you were the perfect temperament for that job. I must admit it is not an easy thing to do when ASD continues to be a challenge for so many families and educators. I found it best to focus on how far we have come. You have done much to lead Minnesota teachers in providing quality services for children with ASD. Working with you was one of the favorite parts of my job at Ausm. Your support helped in so many ways, especially the conference and symposium.

Thank you so much for devoting your career to helping our children. You have made a difference in many lives.
Fran and Maura Roby
So glad to hear of all the joys you are savoring, and of the good progress you are making health-wise. Continue healing in the arms of your loving family and friends. Blessings to all of you.
Sparkie Ciriacy
By Sparkie Ciriacy
We miss you, Phil, and will continue to do so. Your work here has been so important! I have learned so much from you over the years, as I know many others have. What a fine, exemplary professional you are! Do not feel too sad about leaving MDE. I know you will find many other ways to contribute to our field in the future. Right now spend time healing and enjoy what sounds like a wonderful family. Relax into what where God has you; look forward to where He's bringing you; and remember those of us who have benefited so greatly by where He had you.
1 person hearted this
Heidi Balley
What an amazing recap!! I can see your smile through your words and how lovely your family is as I imagine them dancing and celebrating. Congrats on all of your achievements over these last few months: tackling treatment, fatherhood, father-in-law-hood, retirement and co-piloting Noah. You're on our minds and in our prayers. Well wishes to you and your family! :)
Ingrid Aasan
By Ingrid Aasan
Phil! Miss seeing you and hearing your wisdom! Will have to schedule a lunch soon! Take care and so great to hear this positive news from you! Carrying you in mind and prayer!
Laurie Barrett
By Tim and Laurie
It was truely a beautiful wedding- such a happy event- and the rainbow! Tim and I were overjoyed to see everyone.
When you feel rested enough, think about coming to tutor at St Thomas More- we have a great ERT, and always need great people to help with our students!
Love and hugs
Barb Kizzee
So good to hear from you. Thank you for taking the time to share your updates about your family and your health. A father/daughter dance is very special at a wedding. And you have another wedding coming up next June. Hang on to those dancing shoes!

I was sad to hear of your retiring from MDE but thankful that you are taking care of yourself. Your smile and disposition are missed daily in the office. The best to you with teaching your son to drive. You have the patience of a saint.

You are in my prayers and thoughts. Pray that God will continue to show His miracles with your health. God bless you and your family!
Mike McKee
By Mike McKee
What a summer!

Recovery, retirement, a wedding plus your journeys to Chicago--heck, I get tired just thinking about your summer. I am so happy for you and your family.

Phil, you have had a positive impact on many people's lives, not only during your career, but with many people who have been lucky enough to have had you in their lives, including me.

Keep fighting the good fight and just being Phil.
Brad and Joanie Trahan
By Brad Trahan
Phil.....I can't begin to even think of a word more powerful than "Thank you" for all you have done for autism and the Minnesota Autism Task Force. I continue to pray and think of you often that your health continues. You're a very kind and humble person who has helped so many. I know I speak on behalf of my family, and most of all for our son Reece, who is non-verbal, and say, "Thank you Phil for all you have done!" Health is #1 and our prayers will continue. Please know my friend, the powerful impact you have made on so many! There is without a doubt in my mind, your endless work has improved the lives of so many individuals across our great state. Priceless! God Bless you friend!
Deb Marston
By Deb Marston
Phil, you have given so much to the autism community! I remember our humble beginnings at Anderson D in 1977! We were pioneers! You went on to lead the way for others throughout the state. Time to pass the torch! Congratulations on a well-deserved retirement and I hope your health continues to improve so you can enjoy many more milestones with you wonderful family! Thanks for all you have done for autism!!