Charles Andrew Phillips, 66, died the morning of Sunday, April 11, 2021, at his home in Denver, Colo.
Charles was born in Virginia, Minn., on Jan. 27, 1955, to Robert and Dorothy (Heikkila) Phillips. He graduated from Virginia High School on June 7, 1973, and joined the United States Army two weeks later, where he was a heavy equipment repairman stationed at Fort Carson, in Colorado Springs. After his discharge a few years later, he returned to Minnesota and settled near family. In February 1982, Charles moved back to Colorado, his last major relocation. In 2001, he graduated Magna Cum Laude from National American University, with a BA in Business Management.
Inevitably, Charles will be remembered as a man who loved to party. Some of his most legendary exploits were a series of late-1970s bacchanals that he dubbed the “Spahn Ranch Music and Art Festival.” There are stories of a garage packed floor-to-ceiling with beer kegs. There was live music on the back of a flatbed semi-truck. At Spahn Three, he cut the entire wall off the end of a barn so bands could jam in the hayloft; the crowd watched from the ground. There were hundreds of guests, and the family all wore “STAFF” T-shirts. The celebrations raged for days.
Charles’ greatest passion was space exploration, a passion that he encouraged among family members and friends. In the mid-1980s, he began work at Lockheed Martin, eventually becoming Quality Engineer for Space Systems before retiring in 2018. He personally worked on dozens of space missions, including the Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiters, and the Curiosity Mars Rover. Curiosity was designed as a two-year mission; it’s still active on Mars eight and a half years later... quality indeed.
This February, Charles watched as the final mission he worked on, the Perseverance Mars Rover, touched down on Mars, carrying with it the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. He never got to see Ingenuity fly, but he was absolutely giddy at the prospect! On April 19, Ingenuity became the first aircraft in history to achieve controlled, powered flight on another planet. He only just missed it.
For the historical record, Charles never burned down a hotel sauna; he never nailed anyone’s shoes to the deck, causing them to trip over themselves in a heated morning chase; his nephews never tied him to the bed and covered his face with toothpaste. These things never happened. Myths. Legends.
Finally, like his parents and siblings, Charles was the consummate host to his guests. As a visitor to his Denver home, you could hardly get through the door before he’d put a glass of Beam in your hand and ask you about dinner. If you were lucky, he’d grill for you. His green chili burgers were a helluva thing... eat, drink, and shoot the breeze, all night long. And in the morning, his coffee in hand, he’d chirp like a bird to some Beatles tunes... and with expert patience, Charles would serve up the best biscuits and gravy you’ve ever had.
He will be sorely missed.
Charles is survived by two sons, John and Marcus Phillips; and a daughter, Maggie Tomasi; five siblings, Ann (Keith) Nelson, Robert E. (Kathy) Phillips, Steven (Laura) Phillips, Margaret Phillips, and Alan (Renee) Phillips; thirteen nieces and nephews, Joel, Kelly, Alex, Timothy, Lori, Mark, Heather, Stephen, Angel, Trent, Trevor, Rachel, and Tracy; twenty-two grand nieces and nephews; and former spouses, Jill O’Toole, Donna Buster, and Patti Walter.
Charles is preceded in death by his mother, Dorothy Marie in 2010; and his father, Robert William in 2012.
The family would like to thank Horan and McConaty Funeral Service and Cremation for their help in this unfortunate time.
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