Rene V. Phillips caught fish and loved his family, being highly successful at both and good at all things he applied himself to, including gardening and woodworking, among other pursuits. If you’ve never heard of Rene before reading this obituary, his name rhymes with Gene, or bean, or Dean. It’s Rene. He always knew when telemarketers were calling because they asked for Renee.
Rene was born in March of 1947 to Howard and Peggy Phillips, living in Pierce and Grangemont, Idaho, as a youngster before moving to Orofino. His surviving siblings, Lorraine Kidder, Nancy Wunderlich and her husband Larry, and Barbie Deyo and her husband Mark, still live in Clearwater and Nez Perce Counties. His folks and older brother, Bill, have already passed.
When his nation called he answered, serving as a combat engineer in Vietnam who walked in front of convoys, armed only with a metal detector, finding DIY land mines planted in roads - the IEDs of his day. Rene was too humble to tell you this, but he earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service in the face of a hostile enemy for his work in Vietnam.
Following his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, he worked alongside his father and brother in the family logging business, Bano Inc. Later, Rene had a long career in public service as a Health Protection Officer for Ada County where he helped manage landfill operations and held would-be polluters accountable. His boss recalled Rene was a quiet man whose reserved words were backed up by competence and capability.
What Rene did speak about often was his family, for he loved them so deeply. Karen and Rene’s lifelong romance started in a high school typing class, continuing through their 52 years of marriage, producing their son Scott. His beautiful bride, Karen, was his best friend, constant companion and partner in all adventures. They traveled across the west and she often out- fished him, which Rene admitted freely. In his final months, she was his compassionate and loving caregiver, too.
And Rene talked about fishing, sometimes blurring the fine line between fishing-fact and fiction.
Last summer, he bought a welded-aluminum fish-slaying machine and outfitted his new boat to fish any waters between the Pacific Ocean and the Clearwater River. Karen, Scott and his wife Courtney, and their children Jackie, Scotty, Bridgi and Jackie’s boyfriend Christian intend to honor this man they love so much, Papa, by frequenting his favorite fishing spots and landing a limit of kokanee.
Rene left for a great fishing trip in the eternal waters on Sunday, April 5, 2020, at that time of day when the fish are just beginning to bite. He passed at home in his son Scott’s arms, awakening moments before heading out on his next adventure to gaze into Karen’s eyes, surrounded by his daughter-in-law Courtney and his grandchildren Jackie, Scotty and Bridgi, whom he loved so much.
Rene’s cremains will be interned at a few of his favorite fishing holes and at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise with full military honors. A gathering for family and friends will be held at a later date.