Dr. Vonzia I. Phillips
An Open Letter to the Dear People of St. Lawrence,
Lawn, and all of Newfoundland, Canada:
It is with a combined sense of sadness and great appreciation that I write to you on behalf of the entire family of the late Lanier Phillips. Words can never appropriately convey the gratitude that we have for you. Your collective expressions of care, love, and support of our father over the years have been simply phenomenal. Please know that he spoke of you fondly and very often during his final weeks.
When we reflect on his time here, on this side of eternity, we know that each of you touched him deeply with your compassion. He was bursting with joy and excitement after his last visit with you; he particularly enjoyed the play Color Blind as performed by the children. From the beginning you treated him as any fellow human being should be treated, yet for so many this remains a rare occurrence in one's life. Seldom in Dad's reality did he have the pleasure of experiencing the unwavering, unconditional type of love that the people of the Burin peninsula have bestowed upon him. My family and I realize that it is by almighty God's miraculous grace that he was able to experience your humanitarianism and enjoy the kindness you displayed beginning with that unimaginable tragedy on February 18, 1942 and continuing through his most recent visit to your area a few short weeks ago to commemorate the 70th anniversary of that eventful day.
The family finds it difficult to properly respond to each of the many cards, emails, letters, tributes and condolences received from the Canadian people, but we pray that this letter will convey our heartfelt appreciation for all that you have done during this time of bereavement and more importantly, during our father's lifetime. You truly added a large measure of joy and gave him every reason to believe in mankind. You demonstrated God's love in his life and for that we are eternally grateful!
Although our hearts are heavy at the loss of our father, we know that he is resting peacefully in the arms of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In addition, we believe that the collision of his combined life experiences with those of the people of Newfoundland will leave an indelible, auspicious mark on generations to come, both here in the U.S. and in Canada.
As his children, we are keenly aware that were it not for the spirit and fortitude of your people, we would not exist... In saving our father's life you planted a seed that was nourished in each of us and continues to grow with each generation of Phillips. We are committed to his legacy and we are so honored and humbled to have had him as our father. Our legacy and yours are irrevocably woven together. We will continue to honor him by celebrating your contribution to his life.
While we selfishly mourn his passing, we know that you grieve along with us. Dad expressed to us that you made him feel as welcome and at home in Newfoundland as he did anywhere on Earth. We will forever remember your "Echoes of Valor" as depicted in your memorial statue. For this we say, THANK YOU, although these words are somehow inadequate in conveying our indebtedness.
Vonzia & The Entire Phillips Family