“Tieton From Hatton Road Looking Northeast”

Vincent Philbrick

Womb of Bothers

The term ‘brother’ generally means a male animal of a common womb. Brothers are also often known as members of a common group of people often with a link to religion, the brethren.

Uncommon friendship between two males may sometimes produce brothers of friends. Doctor Vincent James Philbrick, though of a different womb and a non-religious group, was my friend. I wish to tell you what a special life he lived whilst living amongst us.

I am of the belief that with each key stroke or verbal utterance I create a distinctly recognizable frequency that resounds through space and is never ending. As I do not believe death is an end to the human spirit, I do not believe the lack of sound is death to a keystroke or the voice of communication. I begin with that difference between myself and my brother Jim. Jim did not believe in an afterlife.

It is my hope that this story of Doctor Vincent James Philbrick will find its way too many down through eternity but of importance now is that it finds its way to those who know and love him in the present. I will refer to Doctor Philbrick as Jim throughout this writing for that is what I called him when he was living amongst us.

Vincent John Philbrick was Jim’s dad, born November 15, 1892 in Rose Creek, southern Minnesota to James Philbrick and Susan Hawkins. He was first known to me as Mr. Philbrick a man I would come to call Dad and his son, brother. Jim’s mother was Mary Melinda Philbrick born September 2, 1902 in Marshall County Iowa to Daniel Stanton and Virginia Dewar. She was first known to me as Mrs. Philbrick a woman I would come to call Mom and her son, my brother.

Vincent and Mary Philbrick married in Bemidji, Minnesota March 21, 1918 five months before the end of the First World War, Vincent was twenty-five years old and Mary was fifteen years old three months or so short of her sixteenth birthday.

The land Vincent planned to farm was flat with scrub brush. While Vincent was born in the southern part of Minnesota, Bemidji is far north in the state and it is believed that Vincent had gone there an taken out a homestead patent on land to farm prior to his marriage. The area as shown in the photo above was filled with lakes and the ground watertable was near the surface with few areas with soil suitable enough for raising crops. Vincent often found that his plantings would no sooner break out of the soil in the spring before a frost would set in and kill the new plants. He spoke of requirements of having to plant multiple times. He would come to remember the mosquitoes the most in later years saying, “Only a few of them were over an inch in length but my God the number of them!”

Of course none of them were an inch in length, it was his humor in exaggeration of the problem he had faced. However, Mary remembered building fires of freshly cut wood in the house to generate smoke to force the pests to abandon their home. Ultimately Vincent and Mary abandoned the homestead and moved west giving up ownership to their homestead to the mosquitoes. Vincent and Mary never went back and Jim only went once when in his eighties while visiting the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Vincent could not make a living farming in northern Minnesota and took up odd jobs to support the family. In about 1925 to seek a better way of life he talked a fellow into letting him travel along with him to Oregon as a hobo. There he worked at odd jobs and sent money home to Mary and the kids. From Oregon he traveled to the Yakima Valley seeking work. Having learned the rules of the rails he returned home to Minnesota to arrange the movement of his family west where he believed a better life awaited them.

Vincent’s return to the west is unknown but is believed to have been around 1927. This time he again came by rail as a hobo but he traveled alone. Vincent was as strong as a bull standing over six feet and well over two hundred pounds, but he didn’t like to fight and avoided groups and their alcoholic ways. He had been to Cowiche on his first trip out west and the second time he chose Cowiche as his destination and a place to bring his family.

The family ultimately consisted of two sons and four daughters. Their lives meant a lot to Jim because he learned something from the experience of each except the sister that died early following birth.

Margaret Mary was the first sister born in Minnesota April 17, 1920. She was his favorite often saying, it was Margaret who raised me. When Jim was born Margaret was within a month of being nineteen years old. She is believed to have become a nurse and she married William H. Kreis and was living with her family in Ellensburg, Washington when she died.

Margaret died before Jim and I became friends. He told the story of Margaret being in the hospital in Ellensburg with some illness and in need of blood that was only available in Yakima. He spoke of a race against time of police forces rushing blood for Margaret up the dangerous Ellensburg Canyon highway. A race unfortunately for Margaret that was lost and she died at a relatively young age.

Ruth Philbrick, the second born, also in Minnesota was never spoken of by Vincent, Mary or Jim. She died at birth or very shortly after and is presumed buried in or near Bemidji, Minnesota. She died of an ugly illness called meningomyelocele a protrusion of the spinal cord and its membrane through a defect in the vertebral column. Jim wrote me but once and told me about her. It is the infants of humanity that go quickly and often are forgotten soon except by their mothers. Ruth’s date of birth is unknown but is believed to have been in late 1921 or the spring of 1922.

Vera Jeanne Philbrick the third born in Minnesota was born April 1, 2023. She graduated from Cowiche High School in 1941 and obtained her nursing certificate in Yakima. She married David W. Burns and lived in Seattle off Rainier Ave on Kenny Street. Dave worked for the Art Museum on Capitol Hill in Seattle all the time I knew them and drove yellow cab part time. As a side note Jim too would once in a while drive Yellow Cab in Seattle a job that provided him an excellent understanding of the metropolitan area.

Vera worked regularly as a nurse in the Seattle area and was believed last employed at Northwest Hospital in the Northgate area of the city. In the final years of her life she remained home and was a caregiver to her mother, Mary who lived with Vera and Dave up to just before her death.

Mary always wanted to die at home in Cowiche and she talked Vera and Dave into taking her home to Cowiche “just one last time.” Vera and Dave agreed and took her to Cowiche to the old house Vincent had built for her back in the late 1920s. As soon as Mary had entered the house she died.

Dave was to be an influence on Jim’s decision to join the Navy. Dave himself had been in the Coast Guard during the Second World War. He loved telling the story when he first went onboard his ship in Seattle and how excited he was. He had boarded early he was so excited to be on a ship. He said he went walking all over the ship seeing what he could see. When looking over one side of the ship he saw them taking off bodies of those that had been killed and he said, “The excitement went away!”

Ralph, Jim’s older brother was the last born in Minnesota on January 28, 1925. It is not believed that Ralph finished much more than eight grades of formal schooling. He was a large man with shoulders of a bull and like his father having a kind and agreeable disposition. He worked in Western Washington at odd jobs south of Tacoma but ultimately obtained a job in the Water Department for the City of Seattle and lived comfortably in a nice home in the Northgate area of the city.

He married Alice Brooks and him and Alice took their children when Ralph retired and bought a small acreage in an area near Harrah in the Lower Yakima Valley where they raised various crops and enjoyed the end of living. Jim had been present the night that Ralph and he first met Alice and always spoke of her fondly.

Laura, Jim’s forth sister was the first of the children to have been born in the Yakima Valley. She was born in the old Yakima County Hospital November 19, 1927 out west of the city. It is unknown if Laura finished high school but it is not believed she did. She married Guy Hill who was a hired hand for various ranchers in the Cowiche area and it is believed that both Guy and Laura worked at the various fruit warehouses in the area from time to time. Guy was known locally for his liking of beer and Laura may have developed a taste herself. For that reason, Laura and Guy were not favorites of Vincent and Mary. However, that did not affect Jim’s relationship with them and Jim would visit his sister each time he came home to the Yakima Valley as he did all of his relatives.

Vincent James Philbrick came into this world eleven years after Mary Philbrick thought she had her last child. Jim too was born in the Yakima County Hospital out west of the city of Yakima. There are lots of stories about the birth of Jim, but we have proof positive that his birth was no mistake for from that birth came a son that would go on to high accomplishment and accumulate about him many scores of people that would call him “friend” none of which ever made a negative statement about the man.

After coming west Vincent and Mary lived in or near the small village of Cowiche in Central Washington State in the foothills of the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain range. The Goggle map shown below provides a general picture of the location of both the first family home and the second and last in Cowiche. The location labeled Number 1 on the map is the first location the family lived when Mary brought the children west from Minnesota. The triangular sliver of land labeled Number 2 on the map is the six plus acres of land Vincent and Mary purchases from Walter Swier and his wife who were neighbor on the south.

Jim and Vincent always referred to the first location as the Henry Narum place. Before Jim was born when Vincent first brought Mary and the children west Vincent had a job with Mr. Narum setting out his orchard.

Mary and the children came by train from Minnesota and even by train from Yakima to Cowiche via way of an open box car to Cowiche. Jim often recounted how it must have looked with Mom and her three kids and luggage in tow when they departed the open box car on “Sage Brush Annie” in Cowiche. All of the locals referred to the daily train to Cowiche and Tieton from Yakima as “Sagebrush Annie.” The engineer and brakeman would often throw candy to children standing along the tracks making themselves very special to the kids growing up. The railroad is gone now but the memory will linger on for a few more years as the living from the last century pass away.

Across Old Cowiche Road from the second residence lived R. O. Strausz and his wife and their two sons Curtis and Stanley. Jim remembers Stanley as his first boyhood friend and playmate and would visit Stanley often over the years when he visited the Yakima, Valley. Stanley went on to school and obtained a doctorate degree. He never married and remained in his boyhood home caring for his mother after his father and brother passed away and remained living in the family home. Stanley was well liked by Jim and he spoke of him warmly when his name came up in conversations.

Mary and Vincent were frugal people and always managed a way to save some money for emergencies but they probably did not buy the land from the Swier Family or build on it with money they had saved. Perhaps Vincent was able to sell his homestead or maybe he obtained inheritance from his father who was a farmer in Minnesota and who also owned and operated a small freight business employing a couple of freight wagons and the necessary teams of horses to operate them. When they purchased the land is unknown but it is believed it was purchased in the late 1920s or early 1930s before the great depression of 1932.

We know the two-story house at least and perhaps the garage, chicken house and barn complex were built by using lumber from the old Pine Box Mill on the South Fork that operated by a water wheel using water from the South Fork of Cowiche Creek. By 1928 the Pine Box Mill had been abandoned and some of the salvaged lumber from that mill and the mill buildings themselves went into Vincent’s buildings. We know that Vincent dug a fruit cellar and put in a cistern. Water was from the Cowiche Ditch which took its water from the South Fork of Cowiche Creek near the west end of Cowiche Valley.

By the time Jim came along Vincent had switched from the horses he knew best to working the land with his International Farmall Tractor much like the one shown above. Jim became so fond of that old tractor that later in life he had it trucked to Saratoga, California to his home there. I remember visiting him in Saratoga and seeing the old tractor along the driveway and us chatting about the memories it brought back. I am sure Joan, his wife, or Carla and Tom his children would never understand what that tractor symbolized to Jim. He had spent many hours on board that tractor working the land and hauling produce Mary and Vincent had grown door to door for sale in and around Cowiche.

But then again Jim’s family likely never got the pleasure of milking a cow and squirting milk directly from the cow’s teat to the mouth of a cat standing on it hind legs either. Or the pleasure of watching a brood hen and her chicks chirping to one another in the tall grass. Likely they would never have experienced the challenge the goats gave him trying to find the place they kept getting out of their fenced enclosure. Jim wanted his children to know something of
the life he had led in his youth. He would bring his family back to the Valley in those early years. So that they might taste the life that once had been his. The children got to ride the International Farmall Tractor from time to time with their father and to visit aunt Laura and witness the feeding of the pigs and even as seen here get them in a cherry tree to harvest at least enough cherries for a pie. From left to right in the photo are Carla, Tom and Farmer Jim Philbrick.

Jim’s youth was far different than that of his and Joan’s children an indeed far different than that of Joan herself. He was taught by Mary and Vincent from birth to enjoy nature and its gifts. To witness Jim or Vincent take a vegetable or fruit from the garden, clean it and eat it was a joy not only to them but to those who watched the pleasure it brought.

Jim never lost his thirst to know and understand the working of things around him. His youth was a rich learning experience of being greatful for the simple yet important things of life such as food, water, warm shelter, clean air, the beauty of the land including the mountains and the fast flowing streams and the friendly conversation of others.

The house Vincent built for Mary is shown in the photo above. The photo was taken many years after Vincent and Mary had passed and even after their bequeathing it to their daughter Laura who subsequently sold the property and move to Tieton. Visitors never entered the dwelling from the front steps shown in the photo during the time I knew the family. The rear or back door was on the right hand or eastern side of the house. I never knew any other entry of the untold times of having been in the house. The driveway ran from Old Cowiche Road along the front of the house along an irrigation run-off drainage ditch from the Strausz property where it forked with one branch going to the garage that set northeast of the house and the barn that set east of the house. The trees were about half the size shown in the photo in the mid-1900s when Jim was growing up. Of interest is the exterior air conditioning window unit shown on the west side of the house. There were no such amenities when Jim was living in the house although there was indoor plumbing so Jim never had to walk-through knee-deep snow to an out- house as many he grew up with did in the 1950s.

Once in Cowiche Mary was busy raising the children but as soon as she could she was working in the various fruit processing warehouses during the seasons sorting fruit and or packing it. She worked mostly apples and mostly at Cowiche Growers Inc. but summers would find her packing cherries at various warehouse facilities. When there wasn’t work, she like all the others in the trade signed up for government assistance or unemployment. As Jim would say, “We had all we needed, I grew up comfortably.”

Vincent worked at odd jobs wherever he could find work. From time to time he found himself when away from home as he said, “working for my supper.” When working in Cowiche he grew vegetables and fruits and sold them door to door around Cowiche even after retirement. He worked away from home a lot especially during the heart of the Great Depression in the early and mid-1930s. He frequently took work as part of the federal government’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) program renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration. One of those jobs was as a cook on the Grand Coulee Dam project.

When I became friends with Jim, Vincent was working at the McIntosh Veterinary Clinic on South First Street in Yakima in the building shown above. How many years he worked and lived in the Clinic are unknown but it is believed the time exceeded twenty years.

He had general duties from assisting in surgeries to being the night watchman. After starting at the clinic, he seldom would stay in the house in Cowiche save maybe on weekends and vacations and often not then. For the time I knew him he always lived in the Clinic up until he retired from that job. I would from time to time find myself staying with him and on occasions spelling him at his job.

The clinic had a shower and bath and a kitchen where we prepared food for the animals and ourselves. Vincent was a lover of oatmeal and I remember becoming so damn tired of eating oatmeal for breakfast I began to go without having breakfast.

We slept in the rear of the building on cots in one of the two horse stalls. I remember the summer between my junior and senior years in college I spent the entire summer living in the clinic sleeping in that horse stall. On occasion of college breaks I would also live with Vincent doing odd jobs around the clinic to make money for school.

When Mary and Vincent retired, he went back to living in Cowiche. Both Mary and Vincent were able to live on their social security and cash sales from the produce Vincent sold door to door until he was eighty years old. Jim said he could make $600 to $800 annually from garden sales saying, “Can you believe it, Mom and Dad were able to save money living on social security?”

Frugal was a characteristic of both Mary and Vincent, I suppose it was a reflection of their lives together and the impact of the Great Depression. Their love for me often would test their ability to save. Mary would find a need she determined I had and was always paying for things like vehicle license fees and gasoline to get back and forth to work prior to pay day.

A story I tell all who are wishing to listen is of Vincent’s Westinghouse Air Brake Company stock. Somewhere during his employment Vincent had purchased a number of shares of Westinghouse. He was as fond of those shares of stock as any one person could possibly be. He would have guarded them with his life.

Learning from Jim that I had insufficient funds to finish college he sold that stock and loaned me the money so that I might complete my final semester of my senior year at Washington State University. I remembered that act of kindness sitting outside his nursing room door the night he died. When my sister called about 6:00 a. m. the following morning to ask the charge nurse how Vincent was doing she answered, “I don’t know I am just coming on shift, but his son has been here all night perhaps he knows I will put him on the phone.” When I took the call and my sister recognized my voice she nearly screamed, “Bill it’s you, I thought Jim, well I might have known…”

What a tribute to have been considered Vincent’s son. The concept of ‘womb of brothers’ was born that early morning. I never saw Vincent again, but the times I think of him and Mary are too many to count. I owe them and Jim so much.

Jim started school in 1945 in the Tieton Elementary School shown here. The building is gone now having been demolished in 1956 for a new more modern structure. Jim attended 1st through 4th grades in this building. In 1948 a change in school districting saw Jim attending school in Cowiche in a building constructed in 1911 that once had been the Cowiche High School his sister Vera graduated from in 1941. It is shown above after being sold to the Catholic Diocese of Yakima. The building remained standing at the time of Jim’s death. The photo below is Jim’s Fifth Grade Class photo with him seated behind the sign.

Jim went to the Fifth and Sixth Grades in this building. It is his attendance of school in this building that I first became


aware of Jim. I first remember him on the playground with a group of other boys taking down Willard Pennington’s underwear pretending to circumcise Willard with a plastic knife! Even at that early age he clearly had aspirations of being in medicine!

We were not close friends in those days though we did usually spend recess periods and lunch breaks together sitting on our butts in the hall outside the Principal’s Office. It was punishment generally for having been caught throwing snow balls. One time I can remember one or the other of us made the mistake of hitting a teacher with a snowball.

In the Fifth Grade he sat near Ruth Rudd shown at the left in the photo and she would often feel Jim pinch her. When complaining to her mother Ruth was told that the pinching meant Jim liked her. In deed he did, they remained close friends until the day Jim died.

Jim although small in stature in the Fifth Grade grew to be well over six feet tall. He was over-weight for his height through elementary school and junior high school well into high school. Because of his size he was nicknamed “Moose” by his friend Pink Robbins a nicknamed that lasted his entire life. It was one of his negatives in life, for he silently disliked the nickname. Jim was back in Tieton in the school years 1951/1952 and 1952/1953 for the Seventh and Eighth Grades in the building shown immediately above. The lighter colored building was the gymnasium where he learned to dance among other things. Both of the dwellings were demolished in 1956 and replaced by new structures.

During the span of time from 1948 through 1953 Jim grew to be well over six feet tall and over two hundred pounds. He spent most idle time in this period being friends with Jewell Hill who was a couple of years ahead of him in school and a 1955 Highland High School graduate and E. G. Akins who dropped out of school in 1954 to join the Navy. Jewell was a member of Guy Hill’s family that Jim’s sister Laura had married into. I would often quiz Jim as to what happened to Jewell following high school but he always chose to change the conversation so I gave up. E. G. Akins went on to have a career in the grocery business with his older brother Arlis. Even late in life Jim would call E. G. and chat with him about the ‘old’ days.

In the summer of 1954, he found himself infected with a streptococcal infection which was followed by Rheumatic Fever. He was seriously ill and came close to losing his life but survived only to suffer damage to his heart valves. One of the byproducts was a loss in weight and from that summer on he was tall and slim. On occasion Joan, his wife, thought of him as even being skinny. Jim always liked the idea of not being overweight throughout his remaining years in school and throughout his adult years. His experience with excessive weight however had taught him not to be critical of others who were overweight.

I have often tried to remember when Jim and I began forging our bond of friendship. In talking about that he and I concurred that it was in our sophomore year of high school just before or after he was stricken with Rheumatic Fever. I and a couple of friends had gone to Jock’s Pool Hall in the little village of Gleed in lower Naches Valley. As I remember it was adjacent to or part of a tavern, but there were no restrictions on us because of age. He was there playing pool with E. G. Akins and we spent a couple hours together and he dropped me off at home when we finished. From that day on we were thick as fleas on a wolf’s back.

Mary and Vincent had the money to make sure Jim took swimming lessons, joined clubs, learned to skate and do all the normal things. I did not join him in those activities because I could not afford the fees or resources needed for participation. While I played some sports Jim shied away from athletics and spent time on learning how things operated and on history. He was an avid reader. You would go into Mary’s house when Jim and her were living together after Mary’s mother had passed and there the newspaper would be spread all over the living room as they read every little last bit of news. Jim often scheduled his return to the house based on when the news was on the radio and later the television than when it was supper time. He absorbed information much like a dry sponge absorbs water.

Jim’s thirst for learning and the knowledge he had accumulated made him a favorite of his teachers. He always received high grades, grades that not only he was proud of but Mary was as well. Mary would often take Jim’s report cards with her to work to show her co-workers what a bright son she had. It embarrassed Jim a bit because Mary worked with mothers of some of Jim’s Classmate like Duane Oberlander’s mother, Gary William’s mother and Kathleen Monahan’s mother, themselves fine students, but not to the league of Mary’s son. Mary liked Kathleen so much she was frequently trying to match her with Jim and failing that me.

Jim and I used to joke about those attempts as neither of us even remotely considered marriage while in school. Our attention we had decided should be on furthering our education.

The photo to the left (Jim in his favorite blue and white striped T-shirt) was taken about the time we obtained our licenses to drive legally on the roads.

Jim purchased a 1947 Plymouth once he was sixteen years old and licensed to drive. His car is obscured by the car we are shown looking beneath. I assume the car was partially paid for out of his summer employment at odd jobs. Where he got the car, I don’t know but I am sure his bother-in-law, Dave Burns, was instrumental in the acquisition. I remember Dave installing a replacement used engine in that rascal early on in Jim’s ownership. That vehicle became our ‘Think Tank’ we would sit in Mary and Vincent’s drive way in that car until the windows would fog up into the wee hours of morning figuring out and planning our futures.

Jim always wanted to be a medical doctor and I always want to be something other than poor. Early on we locked on to the idea that it was people with educations that were successful and although there was no way in hell either of us could afford education beyond high school it was decided we should take high school courses that would at least give us the opportunity to go on if somehow a revenue stream could be found to finance more education.

At the time Jim and I were going to high school many of the instructors and teachers were fresh back from the Second World War and the Korean War and had used the GI bill to receive an education. They were a special crop of educators being driven by travel and experience and having total knowledge of what it meant to sacrifice having seen scores of their friends killed in war. When they spotted a student like Jim who was focused on the future, they did all they could to point him in the right direction and give him all the fine tuning and encouragement they had to offer.

Jim was particularly attracted to the teachers teaching chemistry, physics and the various math disciplines. The one who he favored most was Leo Cozza who was also an honor society advisor. They became good friends as much as teachers and students can be friends. As a side bar, years later Leo Cozza moved to teaching at Selah High School north of Yakima. One day just before entering the school he fell on the ground from a heart attack. The aforementioned Duane Oberlander who by then was a teacher himself at Selah High School attempted to but failed to revive Mr. Cozza. Jim always referred to his friend as Mr. Cozza.

During the years Jim was in high school all eligible males had to register for the military draft. Mr. Cozza had gone to a military recruiter’s conference to learn how to handle military registration with the students having to register. When he returned from the conference Mr. Cozza instructed Jim that he thought it best if a student wanted to insure what his military service was to be, to join the Navy. Jim’s best friend, E. G. Akins decided to drop out of school and go directly into the Navy. Jim’s brother-in-law, Dave Burns, was ex-Coast Guard and Jim opted to sign up for a program of high school summer vacations for naval training and upon graduation two years of commitment to the Navy starting in October following graduation in May 1957.

Below is a photo to the entrance of Highland High School in Cowiche Washington where Jim graduated in May of 1957.

While attending high school Jim made sure he took all the classes that he would need for college. He would sometimes turn out and then quit sports. His year book shows him as having played tennis but the book is in error. He participated in Future Farmers of America, it was in the blood and he of course was a member of the high school honor society. He was also the President of our senior class a position he served admirably.

Jim (high school senior year photo shown to the left) like many of us boy was shy when it came to girls and besides, we had no near-term permanent plans that involved girls. He liked girls and they him. Probably his favorite girlfriend in school was Brenda Berndt, but she by no means caused distraction from the many others some he remained friends with all of his life. He was not a good dancer nor was I thus we usually found other things to do when dance events came up. We enjoyed many other activities throughout are days in high school.

We formed a clique in high school consisting of Gary Williams who went on to a career of working for The Boeing Company, Larry Caffrey who spent his adult life in the grocery or produce industry and Duane Oberlander who became a high school teacher. We did everything from stealing gas, stealing watermelon, stealing pop bottles, to attending female slumber parties together. Alcohol never was part of the venue and when it was Jim and I departed for other parts. I had all I wanted to drink at home with my alcoholic father and step mother and Jim could barely stand the stuff. However, there was one occasion when the five of us were traveling in Jim’s 1947 Plymouth to Spokane to see a football event of some kind. It was one of those bitching hot days when all you wanted was to be cool riding along in that damn noisy car with the windows down. A day when, oh, a cool beer would just fit the moment. We were all seventeen and underage at the time driving along I-90 about to cross over the Columbia River at Vantage when we decided Jim should buy us a six pack of cold beer. We chose Jim because even at seventeen he was able to show a bit of stubble on his upper cheeks and just might pass for the legal age to buy alcohol at twenty-one. He of course didn’t need or even want the beer whereas with me it had become a need! I believe he took on the challenge just to see if he could pull it off. We stopped at the store in Vantage, Washington and he was able to pull it off. He was pleased as a peach with his performance and the rest of us all had a cold beer. I can’t remember but I likely drank his as well as mine and may be the extra one as well – damn it was hot that day.

When you are as close to someone as I was to Jim it becomes easier to remember what we didn’t do together than what we did jointly. In October of 1957 he went off to sail the high seas and I became even closer to Mary and Vincent much as a surrogate son and continued my education at Yakima Valley Junior College. Jim served two tours aboard the aircraft carrier Shangri-La (photo shown above) during the period of October 1957 until August 1959. The experience changed his personality and gave him confidence. He worked on the bridge of the ship amongst officers who had mostly graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis. He found even without a college degree he had a level of intelligence that made him think, “If these guys can graduate college, them why not me.”

Both of Jim’s tours were in the Pacific. The Carrier was based in San Diego, California and usually its first stop was in Hawaii. During the tours he would find himself in such places as the Philippines, Okinawa, Hong Kong, Japan, and other ports. He never spoke much of his time in the Navy but did say, “Looking back I wished I had maintained some of those friendships I made in the Navy.” He enjoyed foreign travel and would do plenty of it in later life with The People’s Republic of China being his favorite place to visit. He even took speech lessons in Mandarin and became able to carry on a conversation with the Chinese’s who spoke it.

August of 1959, we packed my two tone 1953 hardtop Mercury with whatever essentials we thought we would need including a portable typewriter for each of us and we took off for Yakima to enjoy the Ave. It was a common outing for many young people to drive Yakima Avenue in our cars to see who and what we might meet in the way of the opposite sex or school mates. Whatever it was we were doing in Yakima caused us to top Cowiche Mountain near where Larry Caffrey, a member of our old high school clique lived a bit after midnight. Jim was driving and said to me, “Where you staying tonight.” I told him I had no place to stay and thought I would just sleep in the car. He was driving and suggested we start off there and then for Pullman. He turned the car around and we were off to college an event we had planned on for years. We were higher than a kite on a moon lit night.

I can’t remember where we crossed the Columbia River at, usually we crossed at Vantage on Interstate 90 and I think we did that night not knowing if the Vernita Ferry downstream operated twenty-four hours a day. I remember how desolate it was out through Othello, Washtucna, and LaCross into Dusty on State Highway 26. Most of the way that night a train travelled off and on along the highway about the speed Jim was driving. I remember all the rail crossings kept me awake worrying that we might collide with the train. We arrived in Pullman for the first times in our lives just as the sun was coming up and found as Jim said, “Someone had rolled up the sidewalks.” There was no movement anywhere and we pulled into a parking lot and slept in the car until the town woke up.

We had chosen to stay in Neill Hall that first semester not knowing anything about college and knowing we did not have extra funds to live like the young men from wealthier families. When we woke up, we went to Neill Hall and they showed us to our room. We were hungry and as soon as the place opened where you got student “chow” tickets we were there in line. Remember Jim was ex-military; he knew “chow” was the word for food. We got our “chow” passes only to find they did not activate for four or five days in the future. We remembered those few days the rest of our lives thinking we were starving to death on chili once a day in a local café and drinking coke-a-cola.

We had my car that first semester but we left it more or less parked. I made arrangements with Dick Mortimer who had a string of apple vending machines on campus to help pay for his education to drive truck on weekends back to the Valley and get fruit for him. If I managed to get out of Pullman early enough on Fridays, I generally could find work all day Saturday and half a day Sunday to earn some much-needed money. Jim would often accompany me on those trips but he did not have to work and would normally date Saturday night and study or visit with family during the day.

The highlight for us during that first semester was our trips to Holland Library each evening to study and then a trip to the Student Union Building next door and coke or coffee as we watched the pretty girls stroll by. Occasionally, but not often, we would run into someone from our old high school days and visit. A big night was Wednesday night because “The Untouchables” and “Gunsmoke” ran back to back down in the television room of Neill Hall.

To save money and shorten the walk to the “Chow” hall each morning and evening we moved and rented a room in a retired WSU’s employees house. It was found by me to be even less desirable than Neill Hall but it did have two good looking young ladies living in the room below us who we would see now and then and on occasion date. I hated the place but Jim liked it and lived there a second time after I had graduated. Jim enjoyed his five years at Pullman.

Jim was studying chemistry that first year although he had few electives it being his first year. He received a “C” grade and it shocked him to the core. Ultimately, it caused him to change his major to Diary Science but he would change his major a number of times before he made a final and faithful decision. All the time he would pick up pre-med classes when he had the opportunity.

My last year with Jim at WSU we made a significant change in our habitat, we rented duplexes or house with two others. A fellow by the name of Bill Crabb who I had met at Yakima Valley Junior College and who lived in Selah, WA and a fellow by the name of Dave Tennyson from Columbus Georgia. Dave and I had met in various classes we had together and I had introduced him to Bill Crabb and Jim. Tennyson was from a well to do family in Columbus and had more money than he needed, a new car and looks that attracted girl like bees to flowers. He seldom studied and had a philosophy of “Don’t let your college studies interfere with your education.” He like all women, any woman and would have love to have pollinated the entire garden but fell in love with a little gal from Western Washington by the name of Mary Wigens.

Tennyson was constantly keeping her out in the Palouse wheat fields and bringing her back to her dorm after the doors were locked causing her to be quarantined and Dave becoming moody. But the other thing Mary did was bring her girlfriends, Carin Fenton, Nancy Livesay and another whom I forget the name of along with her thus Jim and I frequently found the living quarters to be filled with women; too many women for our taste and we spent even more time at the library the Second year for him and my last.

By the second year Jim had already caught the eye of professors and was often recommended to tutor males that were on athletic scholarships. It was a well-paying job and took very little of his time so he tutored a lot. Frequently he would come home from one of his tutoring sessions saying, “Billy, you just cannot imagine how dumb that guy is, I mean give me a break I’ll be lucky to get him up to a ‘D’!” To which I would respond, “That’ll be good enough, all we need is his scoring ability and a ‘D’ will do it.” We would laugh until we cried, God he loved to laugh!

He is shown above in May of 1961 on the day I graduated. We saw each other off and on that next summer and the summer of 1962. In fact, we lived together again part time with my brother and his wife Wanda when Fred worked for Boeing and he and Wanda were living out in Cedar Valley east of Renton, WA.

I remember one incident during that first summer. We were still close to Mary Wigens and her girlfriends even though Mary had refused to marry Dave and move to Columbus. One of the girls, Nancy Livesay, had an antique bedroom dresser with a full-length mirror and did not have room for it in her apartment and asked me if I would store it for her where I lived. Nancy and I had dated while in college and Jim always told me she wanted to get in my pants, (his words not mine), but I think on the matter of the dresser it was a non-sexual thing she wished me to do.

Anyway, Jim and I rented a pickup truck and went to her apartment in the University District and placed the dresser in the back of that pickup covering it so the mirror would not reflect light that night and Jim tied her down. Well hell, after all. he was ex-navy you would have thought he knew about ropes and tying things down, this was just a piece of furniture.

We were headed down Rainier Avenue about where the old Sick Baseball Stadium was in those days and he was going too fast (something that came to me afterwards) and hit a bump. That damn dresser left that pickup truck as if it never knew the word “rope” or the phrase, “tied down!” By the time Jim got stopped and we turned around to go back to see if we could possibly fix it, we began to hear a siren sounding on north on Rainier Avenue coming in our direction. Jim exclaimed, “Billy, how in the hell did the police hear about this that damned fast?” About the time he finished the word “fast” a Seattle City Fire Truck took that dresser on full tilt and when it passed through the intersection there wasn’t a piece of that dresser remaining larger than a penny. Jim yelled, “What in hell are you going to tell Nan”, and we sped on our way, but had to pull over we were laughing so hard. Nancy Livesay thought it was less funny later that night when I called her but she was a good sport about it just the same.

It was August of 1962 when I left for the old Confederacy and employment with Boeing in Alabama and Louisiana. Jim returned to Pullman that fall for his third year. I didn’t see him again until I moved back north in June of 1966.

It had always been a question as to how Jim was going to finance his college education. His parent could help some and did mainly as a back stop should he need a little bit here or there. Jim had good summer jobs most of his college career with either Safeway or Darigold and saved those earnings religiously but most of his college education was paid for by the G. I. Bill and government loans. He of course saved wherever he could and as his third year began in the fall of 1961 and the years beyond in college, he lived off campus and was careful not to over indulge in extracurricular activities.

His junior and senior years at WSU he would change his major a number of times finally deciding he would major in Diary Science. Once he enrolled in the School of Agriculture his advisor, Gary Manufacturing, asked him if he was aware of what Jim’s high school principal had written to the college early on regarding Jim’s ‘Evaluation for Success’ and would he like to read it. The advisor showed Jim the letter George Personette, the Principal, had written. When asked what the letter said Jim replied, “…it was not positive at all. … The thing I remember him saying was that my chances for success were not very high, and I can’t remember the other things that he said and of course, I don’t have a copy of it with me.” The Principal of our old high school had a habit of such comments having said similar things about Ty Griffith who went on to be a physician and Bob Northcott who went on to become an attorney. Likely there were more such letters floating around. I remember saying to Jim, “Can you even image what his letter about me read like” and we both burst out in laughter. When asked how the letter impacted him, he just remarked, “The only problem with old George is he forgot about the power of dreams.”

Jim confessed during his senior year to his advisor, Gary Manufacturing, that although he had been offered employment after he received his Bachelor of Science Degree, it really was not what he wanted to do. He told Manufacturing his lifelong desire of being a physician and Manufacturing talked him into returning to WSU for a fifth post graduate year to pick up the few class he needed in a pre-med program. It was there the dream was cast and he returned to WSU for the academic year of 1964/1965.

The following year he was admitted to the University of Washington Medical School and his career was off to the races. He lived down along the Montlake Cut canal between Lake Washington and Lake Union in a single room that first year of med-school. The following year he met this cute little brunette who worked as instructor in the University Home Economics Department and was married just after Christmas in 1966. Her full name was Margaret Joan Price, (to the right is her high school photo) Jim called her Joan. Joan grew up in Nebraska but went to college in San Jose where her father was a dean at San Jose State University. She was a terrific pick on his part and a choice he never regretted. Life all of a sudden became a bit more enjoyable for Jim as he went on through medical school and interned at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. From there Jim took three additional years of Anesthesia Residency at the University of California – Davis and Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. In 1976 he was back in San Jose, California working at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center as a staff Anesthesiologist.

It wasn’t for another twenty years that I had frequent contact with Jim. Jim and Joan had two children, a girl and a boy, both grew up in the Bay area and received college educations and went on to establish their own families and lives.

Jim would often speak of his children and grandchildren


later on, in life but mostly when we got together our thoughts were focused on the past and our youth. Above is a photo of one of the mini-reunion groups we organized when traveling to Conrad Meadows high up the South Fork of the Tieton River. We would frequently organize min-reunions such as that photographed above as an excuse to be together. The enjoyment of such outings would come up often in conversations.

From 1997 for the next twenty years or so we would meet twice a year in the Yakima Valley to conduct a mini-reunion of old friends. The venues ranged from floating the Columbia River along White Bluffs, to traveling the Citizen Road of 1853 across the Cascades to following the stage coach road from The Dallas in Oregon to Wenatchee across the Colockum Mountains.

These outing took us to some of the most beautiful areas on earth that a person might which to see. For example, from Darlin Mountain high above the head waters of Ahtanum Creek one can see by merely turning your head, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, Goat Rocks Wilderness Mt. Rainier and Pine Box Mountain close by where Vincent obtain the lumber for Jim’s home. From high in the Colockum along the old stage coach road one can see the Columbia River as it cuts through Wenatchee some twenty miles away. The views on a sunlit day would take a person’s breath away. They were occasions Jim never stopped speaking of and always wishing to repeat.

You will learn something of the man, Jim Philbrick, when you read his response to questions, I asked him over the years for which I took notes and made recordings of the answers. The quotes you will read are likely backed up by tape recordings. We got together at least twice each year from about 1997 to the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic. We called the events mini-reunions and we invited anyone and everyone from our school days to attend. But as Jim used to say, “Really, I want people to come but if they don’t just you and me will be fine.” We never found ourselves alone at those mini-reunions like those days in his 1947 Plymouth Think Tank, but we made sure we had time alone for just the two of us to chat and remember the past and project what lay in the future for us.

When asked what was the most important event to occur in his life time he responded, “Well I think one is, and there is several, one is when Harry Truman mandated the integration of the military forces in about 1950 or 1951. That’s a watershed, that’s one of the things that got things off the ground. And most people don’t understand that he single-handedly did it and made it stick.” Jim’s grandfather had been in the American Civil War which was a point of pride for him. The discharge papers from the American Civil War hung on the wall of his home. Both of us loved history and were particularly interested in Civil War History and visited as many national Civil War sites as we could. He said, “I think the other thing that I consider to be one of the most important things that has happened in my lifetime has been the invention of the birth control pill…it’s a mega event.”

When asked what was the most hurtful thing to happen to him in life he responded with, disruption in his career. His response was, “I think one of the most hurtful things that happened to me was when I was a, when I was an anesthesiologist at the county hospital. We had a kind of economic upheaval with administration and our group ended up breaking up. We had a very nice group of anesthesia guys who all scattered after that.” People should know that it was Jim’s career in medicine including the education that pleased him the most outside of his family. He had two families the blood family of his parents, wife and children and his boyhood family of friends that he had grown up with in Cowiche

The reader should remember that we knew each other for nearly seventy years and but for a few of those years were in contact with each other. When asked whom in history he would like most to visit with, his answer was immediate, “Adolf Hitler!” When asked “Why” he responded with, “Well, because I have read enough to understand some of the absolutely stupid things that he did. I would just love to be able to sit down and ask him what the hell he was thinking. As near as I can tell from reading, he wasn’t stupid and he read a lot. As near as I can tell he had some real, obviously he had some real emotional hang-ups that really led him astray, but I would like to know.”

I asked him if he were asked to speak before a graduating class at Highland High School what would it be that he might say. His response was, “One of the things that I would tell them is that you think this is the most important time in your lives but you are not finished. It is an important time but it is only four years and you have a long way to go.” Jim was very proud that of all the people he ever met he never hated a single person. I think had he been asked to give a speech he would want to tell his audience that no good comes from hating others.

When asked about the greatest inventions in his lifetime he stuck to what he knew best saying, “Well I would have to go to something in medicine because that is what I am the most familiar with. I suppose the CAT Scan and maybe x-ray would be to me, one of the great all-time inventions. Other than the basic things like the wheel and the concept of zero, and those kinds of things.” He of course meant the number zero and the concept of nothing. We would have endless conversation about the end of life on earth and whether that meant nothing existed beyond life as we knew it. I would argue that there was not a state of nothing that things changed they did not end. We both knew the human body did not morph into nothing but instead returned to elements of nature. It was his hope he would one day go to sleep and never wake up.

He would not approve of me quoting Scripture here but Ecclesiastes 3:20, does say “All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” Your Bible may read a bit differently but I am sure you get the point. Neither of us could ever document what happens to the human spirit or soul but it never kept us from trying to justify our alternative beliefs. It is my hope that he has now found that I was correct and he was wrong. But oh Lord, he was correct so often, please let him be wrong just this once. It might interest you to know that when asked what invention developed in his life time that he thought had the potential for the most harm he did not call out nuclear weaponry instead he stated “germ warfare”.

Neither Jim or I were regular church attendees but ironies of all ironies was that should you walk into his home in Saratoga you could find the above photo of the Pentecostal Church of Tieton hanging on the wall. This church has been named and renamed several times. In this crowd of people somewhere is a small child named Vincent James Philbrick. My guess is that Mrs. Walt Swier talked Mary into sending her son to this church though Jim never elaborated on his church going years. I am not privy to Jim’s church attendance in his adult life, but I know for sure he was no “Bible Thumper” as he would say; still there was something to be said in his hanging of the photo in his home. It was a question I never felt needed asking. I am told that he often attended church with his family. He knew what he believed and I knew what I believed and it was pointless to have a discussion about it more than once. All topics deserved addressing once.

Jim stated that he was 1/8th Cherokee Indian a factor that made him very proud. I have to believe as his tribe did that the spirit of a person never dies. His spirit may never be back this way to read what has been said of him but his memory will echo with every keystroke here throughout the universe forever. Listen for him for you will have been better served for having done so. It is said the quality of the fruit is attributable to the tree’s roots. I am a believer for it was my honor to have lived with the roots and loved the fruit of Doctor Vincent James Philbrick’s family tree.

Monk* (aka W. B. Perdue)


Vincent James Philbrick

The youngest of five siblings, Vincent James Philbrick, or simply “Jim” as most knew him, was born in Yakima, Washington and raised and educated through Highland High School in a nearby small community, Cowiche. After graduating from high school, Jim joined the U.S. Navy, actively serving for two years aboard the USS Shangri La and then spending four years in the Navy reserves. Jim was grateful he was able to serve nearly his entire time in the Navy working in the Captain’s office. His home base was San Diego, but Jim completed two Western Pacific Tours before he returned to Washington and began studies at Washington State University in Pullman. He was grateful for the GI bill program that supported his studies, without which he never could have afforded an education. He completed a BS degree in Dairy Manufacturing while working in the summers for the Safeway dairy department.

Jim attended the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned his M.D. He worked as a cab driver as well as a garbage collector to help fund his education. In Seattle he met his wife, (Margaret) Joan Price, on a blind date. Joan was a graduate student in home economics at the University of Washington. Jim and Joan were married a couple of years before Jim completed his MD degree. The young couple continued to live in Seattle while Jim was an intern at Swedish Hospital and Joan taught at the University of Washington.

After his internship, Jim moved to Santa Cruz, CA where he served as a staff physician at the County Hospital and as an Emergency Room doctor at Dominican Hospital. Around this time, Joan gave birth to their daughter, Carla. Jim then joined UC Davis for a residency in anesthesia. The field he most enjoyed was pediatric anesthesia, so he returned to Seattle and the Mason Clinic to complete three rotations in that specialty. Joan gave birth to their son, Tom, during this time period in Seattle.

After completing his rotations in pediatric anesthesia, Jim and the growing family moved back to California, to Almaden and later Saratoga. He served as an anesthesiologist at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center for nearly 20 years. Jim spent the last 10 years of his career at Kaiser in Santa Clara.

Jim enjoyed his free time in a variety of ways. He had about an acre of fruit trees that he tended to and he would use that bountiful produce to make pies at Thanksgiving, as well as jams. Or he would just eat or share the fruit! He also liked to work on cars and spend time with family. Jim loved to travel, especially to Japan and China. In his retirement he took up studies in Mandarin and became conversational and even able to write using the mandarin characters. He was always the oldest person in his classes at the local junior college. This did not bother him one bit. Jim valued pursuit of knowledge. Jim was also a member of Saratoga Rotary and Saratoga Sister City organizations.

Jim is survived by his wife Joan, as well as his two children and 5 grandchildren. Jim will always be remembered as a devoted and loving husband, dad, grandfather, uncle and friend. He is deeply missed but his memory is a blessing to all who knew him.


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