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Philip John Kaplan


1945 - 2014 | Obituary Condolences
Philip John Kaplan Obituary
Philip John Kaplan

Philip John Kaplan, 69, died July 12, 2014 at Swedish Hospital in Seattle of renal cancer, three weeks after diagnosis.

Born May 10, 1945 in Sydenham Hospital in Harlem, New York City to George Kaplan and Rose Kruken, Phil was raised by Rose and her second husband, Skip Wolfe.

Phil is survived by his wife, Cecilia Matson, his elder sister, Johanna Green, younger brother David Wolfe, nephew David Green, niece Sarah Green Vaswani, great-nieces Avery and Quincy Geismar, great-nephews Ezra and Rohan Green-Vaswani, stepdaughter Tamara Cathcart Reames, her husband Steven Reames, and their children Carter, Aliya, Mercia, Eliana.

Phil's parents were founding members of the Tappan Zee Playhouse in Nyack, New York. As a youth, Phil worked as a stagehand at the theatre and his parents acted. He was once designated to be Jack Benny's dresser at the playhouse and carried Benny's violin, a Stradivarius, onto the stage. Phil's lifelong fascination with stage, screen and popular culture began there.

Despite his flat feet, Phil was eligible for the draft. In 1966 He chose to enlist in the Air Force and was stationed at McChord Field in Pierce County, Washington. He resided in the Seattle area for most of his life. He received a bachelor's degree from Pacific Lutheran University while in the military.

Phil was a longtime social justice advocate who devoted his life to advocating on behalf of low income people, farm workers, tenants, disabled persons and other disadvantaged groups. He started a food bank system in Tacoma/Pierce Co. and spent nearly most of the 70's and 80's lobbying and advocating in Olympia on issues ranging from welfare to Medicaid to farm worker rights to landlord-tenant law. He worked for the legal aid program and subsequently started a nonprofit organization, Washington Poverty Law Advocates, where he continued to represent disenfranchised groups. Later, Phil went to Saipan in the Mariana Islands where he staffed the Office of Human Rights for the Catholic diocese. He helped foreign workers who were brought to Saipan to work in abusive and intolerable conditions. When Phil returned to the United States, he continued his efforts by working with congressional staff to document the abuses he had witnessed and to advocate for changes in labor laws in Saipan.

Phil loved kids and dogs. He was "uncle" to a number of children and loved to have them return to visit him as accomplished adults. He came to dog-love later in life, starting with his Australian Terrier, Izzy, and continuing with rescues Milo and Mackie. He found great joy in giving them safe and secure lives. He loved to cook for friends, especially his famous Paella.

Arrangements by the Coop Funeral Home of People's Memorial. The date for a memorial gathering will be announced soon on the Coop website: http://funerals.coop/obituaries/philip-kaplan.html

Memorial gifts may be sent to Food Lifeline, Real Change, and the St. Martin de Porres Shelter, all in Seattle, Washington.
Published in The Seattle Times on July 20, 2014
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