At Heritage, we are honored to serve extraordinary individuals with amazing life stories to tell! Keep reading to learn more about Phil Wight who lives at The Green, a Heritage community in Gerry, New York.
Phil Wight born on April 1st, 1923 in Westfield, New Jersey to Thomas Wight and Nellie Mathison. Phil was one of five children which included one sister and three brothers. He grew up in Westfield, New Jersey where he attended Grant Elementary along with Westfield High School. Phil said he “truly enjoyed his years of being a young athlete,” as he was captain of the tennis team, played defensive end on the football team, and second base on the baseball team.
He joined the Air Force in 1942 directly after graduating high school where he would be apart of the bomber group in the 8th Air Force. Phil was a radio operator and left waist gunner. Phil also was in London during the V1 and V2 bombs in which he aided to the needs of civilians.(Article- in the paper) He then decided to attend Missouri University while serving before attending Delhi University where he would receive his BS degree in agriculture. After serving Phil worked for the JI Case Farm Machinery as a sales representative, Lundy Lumber Company as a sales representative ,and Resources Expiration Gas Company as a salesman. Phil married in 1950 to Marilyn (Lynn) and together raised four children Debra, Patrice, Nancy, and Tom in Williamsport, Pennsylvania until relocating to Bemus Point, New York. Phil is very sociable and has a friendly disposition. His favorite activities include watching the Washington Commanders, and the Minnesota Twins.
Local World War II veteran Phil Wight was recently presented with a Quilt of Valor by the Quilts of Valor Foundation in conjunction with the Fenton History Center’s Vets Finding Vets program. Foundation members make the quilts and then award them to local veterans who have been nominated by family or friends. Wight was nominated by his family and given his quilt at an event at Heritage Green in Greenhurst where he resides.
During the event a video was shown of Wight talking in 2019 to Maple Grove High School students about some of the things he experienced in World War II.
Wight was a member of a bomber group in the 8th Air Force, where he served as a gunner and radio operator, in the role of sergeant. He was in London during the V1 and V2 bombs and part of Operation Chowhound — where planes were permitted to drop food into Amsterdam to help people who were starving there during the war. About 25,000 people died of starvation in Amsterdam during this time.
Barb Cessna, project coordinator of the Vets Finding Vets Program, said Quilts of Valor are a nice way to honor local veterans.
“The Quilts of Valor ladies make the quilts, and they’re always red, white and blue,” Cessna said. “Veterans have to be nominated by family and friends, and they can nominate them on the website. The veteran has to be there, or they have to have their official forms when presented though to make sure they are actually a veteran.”
Cessna added that Wight is very well loved by his neighbors and staff at Heritage Green. “Phil is awesome,” she said. “He lives in the nursing home, so all of his family was there. He’s very well liked, so the staff and his neighbors were all there. It was a very good day for him.”
Heritage CEO Lisa Haglund said veterans are a “true national treasure.”
“These amazing individuals have risked their lives to defend our freedom for decades and now we are caring for the greatest generations of all,” she said, later adding, “We are both blessed and honored to serve incredible veterans like Mr. Wight.”
Wight turned 99 on April 1.
After Phil’s ceremony, the party watched an interview from 2019 when Phil spoke at Maple Grove Junior Senior High School about his experience during the war. You can watch the video above.
Cessna herself became involved in the program before Christmas when another family could not be at a presentation and she was asked to take pictures. She then got to know the Quilts of Valor ladies and was encouraged to tell families in the Vets Finding Vets Program to nominate their veterans. Older and sick veterans are considered first.
“We’ve had a lot of nominations of World War II veterans, along with Korea and some from Vietnam,” Cessna said. “It is an honor for them if they want it. A lot of them are also downsizing and moving into nursing homes, so the quilt is something nice they can bring with them. It’s just a nice thing for them to be recognized.”