Thomas J. Phillips, 1932-2022

Oct 1, 2022

Thomas J. “Tom” Phillips Jr., 90, of Pana, Illinois, passed away Monday, August 29, 2022, in Heritage Health, Pana. He was born March 20, 1932, in Pana to the late Thomas J. Phillips Sr. and Della (Comerford) Phillips. Tom married Doris Elizabeth Christner on June 16, 1956, in the Rectory of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Pana. She preceded him in death on February 20, 2016.

Tom was a graduate of Pana High School, Class of 1951. He attended Eastern Illinois University for a year before enlisting in the U.S. Navy. He then served on active duty for four years and retired from the reserves as chief petty officer after 32 years of service. At age 23, he began his career with the Pana News-Palladium in 1956.

Journalism was Tom’s life and hobby! He got an early start to his career as co-editor of the Pana High School newspaper, the “Pana Pacer,” his senior year. He honed his craft while serving in the Navy, eventually being assigned to the Public Information Office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet.

Along with his wife, Doris, they were the owners and publishers of the Pana News-Palladium for more than 50 years. They were also owners and publishers of the Nokomis Free Press-Progress, Assumption Golden Prairie News and the Morrisonville Times.

He is a past president of the Illinois Press Association and The Southern Illinois Editorial Association. He was a member of the National Newspaper Association and was awarded the NNA President’s Award for distinguished service to community journalism. He was past vice-president of the Illinois Press Association Foundation and was instrumental in the construction of the IPA’s headquarters just south of Springfield.

He was awarded the Illinois Press Association Distinguished Service Award and was inducted into the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale Journalism Hall of Fame and was named a master editor. He is a past president of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Throughout his career, he was the winner of numerous writing awards at both the state and national levels.

Through the influence of his Pana newspaper, Tom single-handedly raised nearly $100,000 to repair the roof and flooring of Kitchell Park’s historic Chautauqua Pavilion in the early 2000s and saved Pana’s Illinois Central Railroad switching tower with his individual purchase of the property. He helped fund the Pana Labor Day Parade for many years with his newspaper “Pennies for the Parade” campaign.

Tom was a member of the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Pana, and 4th Degree Knight with Pana Knights of Columbus Council #896. Tom was the past president of the Pana Lions Club, Pana Chamber of Commerce, and a charter member of the Pana Community Hospital Foundation Board.

He was also a member of the committee that helped to purchase the hospital from the Sisters of Misercorde, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

He was selected as grand marshal of the Pana Labor Day Parade in 1997 and was the recipient of the Pana Jaycee’s Distinguished Service Award and Pana Elks Lodge 1261 Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award. He served as president of the Christian County Elderly Housing Authority and oversaw the construction of Parkway Apartments in Pana. He received the Christian County Economic Development Corporation’s Service Award in 2004.

Tom was a member of the Pana Lions Club, Pana American Legion Post, Pana AMVEST Post, Korean War Veterans and Catholic War Veterans. He served on the Pana Police Pension Board and was secretary of the organization for many years.

He was a Christian County deputy coroner for 24 years.

Tom is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth A. “Beth” (David) Bennett, Madison, Wisconsin; son-in-law, Tom Latonis, Pana; grandchildren: Alicia Phillips Bennett (Alex) Dingee, Nicole Phillips (Josh) Bonn and Jacob Thomas Latonis.

He has three great-grandchildren: Joshua Dean “J.J.” Bonn Jr., Ellie Nicole Bonn and Archer James Dingee.

In addition to his parents and wife, he was preceded in death by his daughters, Cynthia J. “Cindy” Phillips-Latonis and Patricia M. “Trish” Spracklen, and infant grandson, Thomas Phillips Latonis.

Visitation for Tom was Friday, September 16, 2022, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Pana.

A Celebration of Life was held, followed by memorial Mass with Rev. Rodney Schwartz officiating.

Private inurnment will be at a later date in Calvary Cemetery, Pana.

Memorials in Tom’s honor may be made to the Sacred Heart School and will be accepted by McCracken-Dean Funeral Home, who is assisting the family.