County agent still going strong at 94
By HUGH G. EARNHART
OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer
When you get to the 90s, you are officially a legend. I would like to tell you the story of a legend who still makes things grow in his yard and is finally taking time to relax.
His story goes back to 1956, when this “quiet man” would cross the county line between Portage and Mahoning counties and walk into the lives of hundreds of 4-H members, agricultural businesses, and farmers.
This fellow, with the bright yellow shirt, an occasional bow tie, khaki pants, and sport coat, would serve as the Mahoning County Extension Agent for the next 32 years. Extension to him was more than a job. It was a passion.
Bill Phillips was born in Wayne County, Ohio. He studied at Western Kentucky University and Ohio State University, where he received a master’s degree in 1967. After serving three years in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he served as the county agent in Portage County for eight years.
In 1976, Bill’s passion for extension changed his personal life. While hosting a farm tour at the Francis Less Farm, he met a girl. It was not long until he returned to this apple farm in southern Mahoning County to scout for insects and see her again. Susan became his wife five years later.
Throughout the years, Bill traveled the croplands, orchards, and livestock barns, providing scientific information with a twist of common sense to ensure the strong agricultural economy endured.
He was a professional who spent each day making a difference.
His biggest project was in the 1970s when Bill recognized that the century house on West Main in Canfield was not suited for future growth. He worked tirelessly to convince the county commissioners and others to plan and build a new office building. His tenacity convinced the community to rally behind the idea, resulting in the current extension building on South Broad Street.
The work of the extension office was always highlighted at the Canfield Fair, which Bill still loves. The fair was an expansion of agricultural education with 4-H demonstrations, exhibits and the opportunity to see the finest livestock, crops, inventions, food, handicrafts, and works of art.
Today, he still bleeds “scarlet and gray,” attending 4-H events with Susan, supporting OSU Extension programs and contributing at 4-H Endowment Fundraising events. One of his joys is adoring his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This county agent is a spry 94 years young this month. Send Bill Phillips a card at: 490 S. Broad St., Canfield, OH 44406.