Santa Paula Times

Longtime SP community activist, attorney Phil Romney dies

July 13, 2005
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesThere was always a certain courtliness and gentleness about Phillip Romney, the longtime Santa Paula City Attorney, Chairman of the Santa Paula Memorial Hospital Board of Directors and dedicated community activist.Phil passed away early Friday, July 8, 2005 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles following a long illness. Phil died of liver failure after doctors determined that his health was too fragile for transplant surgery.Phil, a native Santa Paulan whose family had deep roots in the area, was 59 at the time of his passing."His indomitable love and courage when confronted with the deadly ailments that ultimately took his life are a lasting tribute," his brother David Romney wrote.The flags outside City Hall at Veterans Memorial Park have been lowered to half-mast in honor of Phil, who served as the City Attorney for decades until 2003.Born September 18, 1945, Phil graduated from Santa Paula Union High School where he excelled at both scholastics and basketball, a natural sport for his tall and lanky frame.After graduating from the University of California Berkeley and the University of Utah Law School, Phil joined his late father Blaine's practice. Phil practiced law from a North 10th Street office for decades specializing in business and municipal law.Phil was dedicated to Santa Paula and quietly supported various causes including chairmanship of the local chapter of American Red Cross and Boys & Girls Club of Santa Paula. He was a Director of the Santa Paula Community Foundation - which saved the historic Depot from destruction - and was a Founding Director of the Aviation Museum of Santa Paula.Phil's love of aircraft started early in life, according to David Romney."As a kid he was quiet and introverted and played with model airplanes," and although Phil never became a pilot his love of aircraft and the Santa Paula Airport remained constant.David said that at SPUHS Phil was a "tremendous basketball player," an accomplishment he had attained through years of dedicated practice."I always found it interesting that there would be chairs out in our courtyard, a gravel driveway on a slope and Phil bouncing the ball for hours until he could make the shot. It wasn't the was the beauty of the game. He approached life like that. He was a quiet and understated fellow," who carefully analyzed problems and challenges and dealt with them.
Phil also possessed a wicked, dry sense of humor that was in sharp contrast to his usual tranquil comportment.Overall, noted David, Phil "Did not lament, he didn't protest, he didn't complain...he just tried to figure out the right thing. That's the way he lived his life: nothing dissuaded him from that. It was a great attribute. Aside from being a great friend," Phil always could be counted to produce the right comment or joke for any occasion.And, although faced with challenges "He didn't take things personally. He was a person who added a lot wherever he went. Phil was just about trying to do the right thing. An amazing thing about Phil is that many people thought he was an extrovert" and had no idea of how reserved - and analytical - he had been as a child. "Even as a kid he tried to figure things out and just did it," said David.Romney was also gracious, a perfect host and anticipated guest, enjoying the conversation of others whether the conversation centered on politics or pop culture.Cathy and Carl Barringer had known Phil since he was a child and said he was a fiercely loyal friend who - decades ago - made time every day to visit their daughter Carol, recovering from a severe skiing accident. "Everyday Phil visited, everyday...he was wonderful," said Cathy Barringer.In recent years he was dedicated to saving and then reviving under county ownership Santa Paula Memorial Hospital; Phil had served on the hospital board for about three decades including longtime service as the board chairman, a position he stepped down from in April.Phil had married again in recent years to Michelle Lee, a union that brought great happiness in his life.Besides his brother David and wife Michelle, Phil is also survived by his brother Jeff of Westlake Village; two sons by a previous marriage, Scott and Adam, both of Camarillo; and two grandchildren.Services will be held at 2:00 p.m. Thursday, July 14, 2005 at Unitarian Universalist Church, 740 E. Main St., in Santa Paula.A reception following will be held at Limoneira Co. Park, 1141 Cummings Road.The family requests that donations in Phil's memory be made to Hospice of Santa Clara Valley, 133 N. Mill St., Santa Paula, CA 93060.