Roland Deforest "Rod" Phillips, Jr.

September 15, 1946 - April 9, 2022
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Sunset View Mortuary
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Rod Phillips became a mariner to fulfill his dream of enhancing the lives of young people through sail-training. While at the University of San Diego he worked on the tall ship ‘Star of India’. After graduating from the University of San Diego he served in the US Air Force where he sailed on the Chesapeake Bay. He ran a Sea Scout post in Southern California as well as building a diving business and working at Catalina Cruises. While there, he became a captain and headed to San Francisco after the 1989 earthquake to run boats since the Bay Bridge was down. He purchased the s/v Nehemiah and ran experiential education and character building trips for youth groups. In this endeavor he was helped by some wonderful individuals who also wanted to make a difference in the world.

He was born in Los Angeles of a family who had come to California in the 1870’s. His grandfather was an early mayor of Pasadena, his dad drew for Walt Disney in the early days of the studio, his mom was a writer/editor. Other interesting relatives include William Bradford, the Governor of the Plymouth Colony, George Steers who designed and built the schooner, “America” which beat the British in a race around the Isle of Wight in 1851. Her Majesty, Queen Victoria was present at the finish line, when told the vessel nearing the line was “America”, she inquired, “Who is second?”, and received the famous reply, “Majesty, there is no second”. Thus ended the first America’s Cup race. Also Professor Thaddeus Lowe who did the world’s first aerial reconnaissance from a hot air balloon in 1862 for the Union Army and his granddaughter, the early aviatrix, Pancho Barnes, who is portrayed in the movie, “The Right Stuff”, she owned the place all the test pilots hung out at, The Happy Bottom Riding Club.

An excellent musician, Rod played piano, bagpipes and string bass as well as conducting the Foothill Youth Symphony. For many years he was the piper for the St Andrew’s Society of Los Angeles and was in the Air Force Bagpipe Band in Washington DC.

Rod was a deeply devoted Catholic who attended the Traditional Latin Mass at St Margaret Mary and gained much wisdom and insight from the good Canons of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest there. He loved sailing with them.

He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Joni, his cousins Mary (Bill) Hegardt, Anne (Greg) Bullard, Caroline Dobbins, William (Mary) Dobbins, his nephews David (Leilani) Baker and Rick (Leakhana) Baker, his cousins, Jill Morse, Abbe McClenahan, Caleigh McClenahan and his beloved niece who baked cherry pies for him, Maggie(Jose) Zavala and his wee nieces Aria and Shelby.

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Life Event Timeline

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Timeline for Roland Deforest Phillips, Jr.

Born: September 15, 1946
September 15, 2002
What he loved doing
What he loved doing
February 12, 2015
With his wee niece
With his wee niece
February 12, 1978
Cool Rod from the seventies
Cool Rod from the seventies
July 1, 2017
Rod’s Friend JB/He Never Went Hungry!
Rod’s Friend JB/He Never Went Hungry!
April 24, 2022
Riding in the wheelhouse with Captain Rod! Best times!
Riding in the wheelhouse with Captain Rod! Best times!
March 3, 2001
Rod blessing us with his bagpipes skills at our wedding in San Francisco.
Rod blessing us with his bagpipes skills at our wedding in San Francisco.
Died: April 9, 2022

Condolences for Roland Deforest Phillips, Jr.

Sunset View Mortuary

Our sincere condolences.

The staff of Sunset View Mortuary.


Mary Tillman posted on 4/25/22

I am so sorry for your loss! Please be assured that Rod will be remembered in our prayers. He will be included in our prayers every Thursday nght. I did not know him, but did see him at Saint Vincent's. May his sole rest in peace. May God help his family cope with his loss. I will pray for them also. God Bless,


Zack Hill posted on 4/25/22

Riding in the wheelhouse with Captain Rod was one of my favorite things to do. We always had great conversations and he always told me great stories! He was my favorite captain and I sure am gonna miss him. Thank you Cap for all the stories, cruises, and awkward hugs! Rest In Peace good sir!


Abbé Kevin posted on 4/23/22

Please be assured of my long term prayers for the repose of Captain Rod’s Soul. Captain Phillips did so much for our youth groups and for me personally. He will be sadly missed. I was privileged to be counted among his deck hands on the S.V. Nehemiah and got to work closely with him including boat repairs etc. My greatest Condolences to Joni as well as to everyone else who was close to him. I so much wish I could be at the Funeral, but please be assured that I will be praying for all of you from the East Coast.


John McNamara posted on 4/22/22

Rod, Thanks for being a great mentor and and even better friend. You taught me how not to run into sailboats that got into my way…. We will all miss your wit and the fun that you had running boats. Your Zalophus landings live on!


Linda Stevens posted on 4/21/22

Dear Joni, How very sad to hear about Rod's death. I remember how kind both of you were after Mass at Father Young's services and Rod was always happy, with a kind word and smile for everyone. I will say a rosary for him and have Father Talcott say a Mass for his soul. May God be with you in your grief. Warmly, Linda


Teresa posted on 4/21/22

Your kind soul will be greatly missed by all.


Mike Minard posted on 4/19/22

The people of the water will surely miss you.