Getting to see nearly every one of the 50 states? That’s a tall order for anyone.

Doing it with eight children? Now that’s quite an effort.

Phil, a resident at Oakmont Rochester Assisted, looked back fondly at how he and his wife Shirley made it a point to see as much of the country as possible.

“When our kids were real young, we traveled to every state in the country, except for a few,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. It was quite interesting. With eight kids, we had to have two rooms when we stopped, but sometimes we didn’t have two rooms and we kind of bunked out. But almost always, we had two rooms.

“My wife Shirley said that she did not want her older kids to have to be responsible for taking care of any more kids than if we only had two kids. She didn’t want her kids to grow up thinking they had a load, and she never had more than a load. She was a great mother and a great woman.”

A long, happy marriage

Phil and Shirley were married for more than 60 years before she died last year.

“When I was 14 or 15, we had a youth club at our church (Gesu Church, in northwest Detroit),” he said. “We were learning how to dance, with boys on one side of the room and girls on the other. We would learn our steps, and then we lined up on each side. I looked from my side to the girls’ side and I said, ‘I’m going to marry that girl.’ And that was it. But my best friend’s mother had her picked out to marry her son.

“At my wife’s 16th birthday party, that’s when I kind of hooked up with Shirley. I latched onto her, which made my best friend’s mother mad.”

Phil, who was born in Windsor and grew up in Detroit, attended University of Detroit High School. He continued into college at the University of Detroit.

Making career plans after World War II

As World War II was ending and soldiers began returning home, Phil thought it may be a good idea to join military. He was too young to join the war cause, but there was an incentive to look into joining.

“I thought of joining up, because they were giving immediate commissions to weathermen,” he said. “I thought maybe I could go to Greenland. And if I got an immediate commission, I could raise my family on that. But it turned out they didn’t need weathermen, and the people that joined up were sent home.”

Newly married and with a baby, he came up with a new plan. He became a research physicist.

“I have a master’s degree in physics,” he joked. “I never did work. You can just use your brains instead of your body.”