Phil Mattson, a master craftsman, model ship builder, wood carver, canine lover, and a man who loved his wife and family, died in his sleep on March 1, 2013, at the age of 93. Up until the day before his death, he remained physically active, taking his early morning ride on his three-wheeled recombinant bike offering treats to his "dog friends" along the way.
Phil was born on February 6, 1920, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From an early age, he liked to work with his hands, constructing models from scraps of wood, and completed his first ship-in-a-bottle at age ten. At thirteen, Phil built his first large-scale model ship, which won second place in a competition at the Philadelphia Commercial Museum. Phil graduated from high school in Summit, New Jersey, and went on to an apprenticeship at Worthington Pump in Hoboken, New Jersey. While serving in the Army
, Phil was stationed at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he worked on the Manhattan Project.
Phil married Helen, the love of his life, in 1943, raised their three children, and enjoyed sixty years of happy marriage until Helen's passing in 2003. He participated in any and all the activities/hobbies his children pursued including camping, scouting, archery and bicycle touring.
After the war in 1946 Phil took night school classes in electrical engineering, mechanical drawing, and physics at George Washington University while working for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Silver Springs, Maryland, on the first subsonic guided missiles and torpedo guidance systems. In 1958 he moved the family to La Jolla. Until his retirement in 1978 he worked for General Atomic supervising operations of the "hot cell" for testing nuclear materials remotely. For thirteen years, Phil constructed a 40-foot motor-sailboat in his backyard.
Phil continued his love of model building and carving throughout his life with boats in a bottle, a commission to build the USS Bennington for the San Diego Maritime Museum and many carvings of caricatures and realistic animals.
Phil is preceded in death by his wife, Helen. He is survived by three children, daughters Claudia Moser and Rebecca Anderson, and son Gregory Mattson, a physician in LaJolla; and grandchildren, Meg, Luke and Marina.