HAMILTON Dr. Robert Neil Philip, 89, of Hamilton died of natural causes Wednesday, Jan. 30, at Community Medical Center in Missoula.
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Cremation has taken place and in accordance with Bob's wishes, no services will be conducted. A private burial with family members present will be held at a later date.
Known to all as Bob, Dr. Philip was born on July 31, 1923, in Lincoln, Neb. to Dr. Cornelius B. and Gladys H. Philip. Bob spent his childhood in Hamilton and was a graduate of Hamilton High School. He continued his education at the University of California, where he earned his medical degree. He later received his Master of Public Health Degree from Harvard University. He was commissioned in the Public Health Service in 1949, and was assigned to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where he met his first wife, Helen Burch Philip.
While stationed in the east, Bob and Helen had their first three children. In 1956, they moved to Anchorage, Alaska where Bob pursued field research on tuberculosis and other infectious diseases prevalent among the native Alaskan population at that time. Their fourth child was born during their four-year stay in Anchorage.
In 1960, Bob was assigned back to his hometown of Hamilton, accepting a post at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory, where he spent the rest of his career as an epidemiologist. He was Assistant Director of the Lab from 1965, through 1979. During this time Bob met his second wife, Shirley, whom he affectionately called Shirley Sue. They were married in 1968, and Bob later adopted Shirley's daughter, Shawn.
Dr. Philip was recognized internationally in the fields of medicine and public health. His most significant contributions were made in the diagnosis and control of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Bob's children fondly remember forays into the mountains to assist their father in collecting ticks, which he used in his research. His studies were reported in dozens of scientific journals and books, and he regularly attended international conferences for the World Health Organization.
Bob retired from the Lab in 1982. In the following years, he continued his passion for research and eventually published a book on the history of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in the Bitterroot Valley. His artistic ability and varied interests inspired him to carve a massive totem pole, which stands in front of his Hamilton home. He and Shirley spent many winters at a second home in Mesa, Ariz., where he played golf and enjoyed the desert countryside. In later years, he took oil painting classes and became quite prolific. Some of his paintings won awards at local art shows.
Bob never lost his curiosity and immensely enjoyed long excursions into the wilderness areas of Arizona and Montana. His sense of adventure led him to take a solo drive from Hamilton to the Arctic Ocean in Canada in 1990. His passion for history and the outdoors made each drive into the country a learning experience for any passengers lucky enough to be with him. During much of his retirement years, his constant companion was his dog, Wegi, who had something of a reputation in her own right. Bob had a large circle of friends and acquaintances and was warmly recognized wherever he went.
Bob is survived by his wife, Shirley of Hamilton; son, Neil (Donna) of Lewistown and their son, Ben of Hamilton; daughter, Elaine Lipp (George) and their two daughters Chelsea and Courtney; and Bob's only great-grandchild, Reanna, all of Rochester, N.Y.; daughter, Kim Philip, who resides in Hamilton; daughter, Shawn Kretchmer (John) of Yakima, Wash.; and son, Matt (Margaret) and their sons, Ian, Connor and Brendan of Woodinville, Wash..
Condolences may be left for the family at www.dalyleachchapel.com
Bob's kind and generous nature and his sense of fun will be sorely missed.
Published in Great Falls Tribune on Feb. 4, 2013