The notice was in the Sunday paper, as it’s been for the past decade. “In Loving Memory of My Husband Phillip (Phil) Anshus,” who died November 15, 2010.
The photograph of Phil wearing his signature cap and sunglasses shows him with his classic Diamond T truck, and there’s a verse that reads:
“Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard, but always near, still loved, still missed, and very dear.” It is signed, “Sadly missed by Eleanor,” his wife of 46 years.
Upon reading the heartfelt memorial, I phoned Eleanor and we talked about Phil and that he had died a week after I had had a stroke. She said Phil would ask her how I was doing, and it made me glad. I would learn of his death at Thanksgiving time when I became aware of what had happened to me. The hospital staff showed me a computer and I found the Mesabi Daily News website, and the obituaries, and there was Phil’s. Born in 1934 in International Falls, he had died at age 76.
His obituary told about Phil. His family lived on the Nett Lake Reservation where his parents were employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, managing the U.S. Government Store and Post Office. He had served in the Marine Corps from 1953 to 1956. He was a truck driver for Century Motor Freight for 40 years. Phil and Eleanor established and operated the Orr General Store and he enjoyed collecting antique vehicles, their cabin on Kabetogama, boat trips, travel, blues music, caring for animals, creating photographic history and visiting with family and friends.
I got acquainted with the ever-cordial Phil and Eleanor when I’d stop at the Orr General Store, an intriguing place with all manner of merchandise and antiques. Then one day Phil got to talking about possible stories for the paper, telling about the bear man Vince Shute, who lived in the woods near Orr, before there ever was a bear sanctuary, telling about the Kettle Falls Hotel on Namakan Lake and that he’d he happy to take me and the paper’s photographer to these places. He was a great storyteller and recounted his childhood days on the Nett Lake Reservation.
Visiting Vince Shute was an experience I’ve never forgotten. When it was time for the bears to have their evening meal, they began popping up all around Vince’s trailer house, and I was glad I was in the trailer and the bears were not. Vince would give them treats, and if they wanted more, they let him know by scratching at the door. Eventually the public found out about Vince the bear man, and it became an official sanctuary visited by thousands of tourists every summer. Vince died in the year 2000 at age 86.
Then there was the trip to Kettle Falls Hotel, sometimes called the Tiltin’ Hilton because the floors in the bar are slanted this way and that. It’s between Namakan and Rainy lakes and you can only get there by boat, and Phil obliged.
Some years later Phil and Eleanor moved to Virginia, to a house across the street from the newspaper. I’d often see Phil and Eleanor in their yard with their dogs Greta and Gracie. We would visit now and then, and occasionally Phil and Eleanor would take their vintage Ford Model A (maybe Model T) for a jaunt heading north on 53 toward Orr.
I still remember the sadness that swept over me upon learning that Phil Anshus had died. And how he is remembered so lovingly by his dear Eleanor.