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Thoughts In Memory of Phil O'Reilly by Mary Lou Martinez

Sharon Behnke | Published on 1/28/2018

Last week I was asked to write something about Phil O’Reilly and although I tried, nothing I wrote sounded right.

I sat down, with my tub of coffee, early this AM and tried again.  Again…nothing.

I gave up, went back to bed and just when I started to doze, the telephone rang.

It was a friend from the bike club – a close friend of Phil’s.

Ignoring the many apologies for waking me up, we began to talk a bit – finally getting around to talk about Phil.

“Tomorrow’s going to be bad.”

“You mean the wake?”


“Some of us are going earlier in the afternoon because it’s going to be crowded later.”

“I feel so bad…”

I was thinking of something to say as it got quiet on the other end of the line.  I heard the sniffling and then the sound when someone cries but tries to do it quietly.  It sounds like a hum.  And, that’s when I began thinking about Phil, too. 

Last week was a rough one.  Phil’s death left many of us stunned.  We sent e-mails and made countless telephone calls to one another.  “Can’t get my head around it.”  “I am praying my butt off.”  “We are all shedding a lot of tears.”  “Can’t believe it.”  “And, “This really sucks.” 

When somebody dies, once you get past the initial shock, the memories begin.

Over dinner, a day ago, friends shared a meal, drinks and, of course, lots of funny stories about Phil.  And, as I told my own story, I realized something. 

If each of us had been given a pen and a piece of paper, and had been asked to jot down stories about him, we’d have read about marshaling on an event, traveling to a bike tour, listening to his comedy act at a club, sharing birthday dinners at his favorite restaurant, swinging a hammer and climbing ladders to build a Habitat for Humanity house in post-Katrina New Orleans, handling the ropes to guide the new “Olaf” balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – and so many more.  In many instances, we’d have found that we were literally in the same place, at the same time with Phil making them ‘Phil and us’ stories -- always funny, special times together.  But, inevitably, as happened at dinner the other night, would be stories some had never heard.  Those were the ones that would leave some of us listening surprised and saying, “I didn’t know that!!!” 

Phil was a funny man who, with very little effort, would have people laughing.  He was a natural at this.  He was the kind of person that people liked to be around.  To some of us, he came to be a very special part of our lives.  And, we know that he felt the same way about us. 

Now, remember my friend on the phone?  The one who woke me up this morning?  Well, when the phone rang, I needed to get up anyway.  Sunday service begins at 10:45 in the morning and when I go, I’m notorious for walking in late.

Anyway, as I was about to hang up, in the highest, squeakiest voice I could muster, I said, “Bye now!”

The question that I knew was coming, did.  “Are you sure that you want to keep saying that?”

And, I said, “Yes!  Of course!!!”

Whenever we were through talking on the phone, Phil O’Reilly always signed off on our calls just that way.  The first time I heard his high falsetto, I thought it was so funny and I knew that I would end our conversations that way too.

So, to my special, funny friend, “Brownsocksphil”, who’ll be damn hard to ever forget and who leaves behind family and a small army of friends who’ve loved him for so many years, I can only say.........

Bye now!!! 

Mary Lou Martinez