DARTMOUTH — Lee Frank Philips, 89, died peacefully on Wednesday, December 12, 2012, in the company of his family after a period of declining health. Born in Manhattan, he was the son of the late Jacob and Elizabeth (Frank) Philips and the brother of the late Robert Frank Philips. He was the devoted husband of the late Harriet (Levy) Philips.
He lived an interesting and charmed life. Growing up in Manhattan, his physician father had a successful, boutique practice caring for and socializing with the celebrities of the time, including Florenz Ziegfeld. Spending more time as a child backstage at the Ziegfeld Follies than in school, Lee met stars like Eddie Cantor, Will Rogers, Fanny Brice, Wiley Post, and many others. As a teenager he went with his family to California and met other actors such as Errol Flynn, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart. These early experiences fostered his lifelong passion for the silver screen.
In his first semester of college WWII broke out, and he was called to active duty. After basic training in the medical corps, he was assigned to a mobile hospital support unit and served in Normandy and, later, southern Italy.
After the war, he returned to school and graduated from Lafayette College. He then went on to earn his dental degree at NYU and completed an oral surgery residency at Kings County Hospital. It was during this time he met and married his wife of 54 years, Harriet. Despite employment with a successful, boutique dental practice in New York City, he felt unfulfilled as he was beholden to the pretense of his clientele and colleagues. He chose to relocate to a “real” place to raise a family, and he opened his practice in New Bedford in 1960.
For 40 years he, and his beloved assistant, Bea Baarsvik, cared for the Greater New Bedford community. His generosity was endless, and he refused no one, regardless of their disease process, social standing, or ability to compensate him for his labors. At one point, he was one of the few remaining oral surgeons in southern Massachusetts willing to routinely care for welfare patients. Dedicated to the service of others, he was deeply committed to the local community. This was recognized in 1996, when he received the Award of Distinction at St. Luke’s Hospital.
Apart from his practice, he was the president of the New Bedford Dental Society, Chairman of the Southeastern District Dental Society, Chairman of the Southeastern Chapter of the American Heart Association, and active in the Exchange Club. He was also integrally involved in local, national, and international charities, including serving as a board member of the Jewish Federation of New Bedford and the New Bedford Jewish Convalescent Home. More recently, he served as the Commander for Jewish War Veterans New Bedford post 154. He was a life member of Hadassah.
Along with the movies, he had a passion for golf and enjoyed the game immensely with his friends at Allendale Country Club. He was never dismayed that his enjoyment of the game far outweighed his talent for it. He religiously watched the Red Sox and the Patriots, and looked forward to those sports Sundays with his son and grandson. A seasoned traveler, he and Harriet toured most of Europe, as well as parts of the Middle East, China, and Central America. He was a member at both Ahavath Achim and Tifereth Israel Synagogues in New Bedford.
He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and always a trusted friend. His consummate optimism, humor, and easy-going nature will be greatly missed. Survivors include; daughter, Lenore Collins and her husband Desmond of Dun Laoghaire, Ireland; son, Dr. Matthew Frank Philips and his wife Laura of Dartmouth, and his two grandchildren, Sally and Joshua Philips, also of Dartmouth.
Arrangements will be made by the Sugarman-Sinai Funeral Home, and the funeral will take place at Tifereth Israel Synagogue in New Bedford. A graveside service will follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, 1811 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20009.