On Friday, March 20, 2020 at 10:07 pm, Donald E. Phillips, 85 years of age, passed away from natural causes at home near Heyworth, IL. By his side were family members including Peggy, his wife of over 63 years. Don is survived by Peggy, their sons, G. Michael Phillips (Marlene) of Pasadena, CA, Steven Phillips (Sue) of Greenview, IL, and David Phillips (Kelley) of Heyworth, IL. In addition, Don is survived by several grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Born on August 8, 1934, in Kansas City, Kansas, Donald Ernst Phillips, the son of Russell Augustus and Theresa Irene (Ernst) Phillips, grew up in DuQuoin, IL. He graduated from DuQuoin High School in the class of 1952. Mr. Phillips attended Southern Illinois University-Carbondale where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Journalism in 1956. He was a reporter, photojournalist, and editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, the Egyptian. His parents preceded him in death.
After college, Mr. Phillips worked as a news writer with the Marion Daily Republican, Marion, IL. In 1960, he accepted a position as a writer with the Illinois Agricultural Association (IAA) where he worked for the balance of his career. Mr. Phillips wrote news stories regarding farming around the state including the annual Illinois State Fair and the DuQuoin State Fair. His coverage also included the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention and how changes in the Constitution would impact farmers and the citizens of Illinois. During his tenure with IAA, Mr. Phillips was assistant editor and then editor of the IAA Record, a monthly publication to members of the Illinois Farm Bureau.
On June 10, 1974, Mr. Phillips launched a weekly newspaper, FarmWeek, which he created and developed for IAA focused on farming and the Illinois agricultural industry. Designed to provide news specifically to farmers and members of the Illinois Farm Bureau, FarmWeek would be published on Friday, mailed to the membership on Saturday, and delivered to the farmer’s mailbox on the following Monday. FarmWeek continues to be published to this day.
Mr. Phillips served as editor of FarmWeek for many years until relinquishing his position to the next generation of editors. He was known as a meticulous editor, a teacher to young journalists on his staff, and an advocate for Illinois farmers. He remained as Membership Information Director until his retirement. He also served as the first editor of the Illinois Farm Bureau Family, a magazine-format publication which replaced the Record in 1974.
In August 1973, Don and his family moved to rural Heyworth where he started Phillips Christmas Trees. Planting thousands of trees over the years, he developed a choose and cut Christmas tree farm business which started selling trees in November 1979. What began as a business involving five acres of Christmas trees now covers over 20 acres with many families returning each year for that special tree to place in their household for the season. Phillips Christmas Trees continues to be operated by his son, David Phillips.
He enjoyed fishing as a pastime especially in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area near Ely, Minnesota. It was not uncommon for Don and Peggy to head out in the early morning to go fishing and not return until late afternoon or evening with a stringer full of bass or northern pike.
For many years, Don was active in University Christian Church, Normal, IL, as a junior high Sunday school teacher with his wife, Peggy. He was also active at Funks Grove Church, Funks Grove, IL, where he prepared the annual public service announcements for the church’s Christmas Eve Services, Maundy Thursday Services, and Easter Sunrise Services.
Mr. Phillips requested that his remains be cremated. A memorial service will be announced at a later date. Calvert-Belangee-Bruce Funeral Home, Heyworth is in charge of arrangements.
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