September 18, 2009

Be Our Guest / Bob Desautels

‘Thank you, Phil Wilhelm’ for your generosity and for touching countless lives

A man of strength, resolve, talent and charity passed away on Aug. 28. His name was Philip J. Wilhelm.

The Indianapolis Star took no note of his death save the standard obituary. Editors of the daily publication, one that is but a shell of what it used to be, neither noticed nor took time to look into the life of this extraordinary man.

As surprised as I was that the newspaper shunned the story behind this successful businessman, I put it off as another faux pas by the media fixed on much more lucrative yet frivolous stories of celebrities and their lives gone right or wrong.

When I picked up the Sept. 4 issue of The Criterion, however, and found no story, no picture and no reference save the standard mention of his passing in the “Rest in Peace” section of the newspaper, I was surprised.

The personal achievements of this man, and the support and personal devotion and passion he gave to the Catholic Church, the archdiocese in which he lived, the parishes where he resided, the high schools he assisted, and the Catholic college he helped support drew zero attention by The Criterion.

I’m sure the Church recognizes that good deeds and care for others by anyone are worthy of a notable response. As my mother told me so many times, “When someone does something for you, cares for you or gives you something out of the kindness of his or her heart, say thank you. … Always say thank you.”

Well, that is what Phil Wilhelm did all his life. He gave to his family members, his Church, his business and his friends.

Phil would, and normally did, avoid recognition. I’m even told he did not want a lot of attention shown after he died.

Well, he got his wish … big time, much like the saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”

In this case, and this is my point, Phil Wilhelm is too much of an example to young and old alike to disregard his passing without acknowledging how he followed the Gospel to the nines.

Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Matthew parishes, Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School, the Catholic Youth Organization and many other archdiocesan agencies saw both his time, talent and a great deal of his treasure.

St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Ind., meant much to him, and was the recipient of his generosity as well. I dare say I only scratched Phil’s achievement surface. It is safe to say that many can learn from Phil’s devotion to others. However, for those who didn’t know of this man, Phil’s story needs to be told.

My mother’s teaching says, “You can’t say thank you enough; it shows you care and are appreciative.”

So may I ask The Criterion to say thank you to Phil Wilhelm? Phil is not asking, I am.

On behalf of all those who knew him, felt his touch (and it was a big one), and are better people today because of knowing him and what he did for others, we should all say “Thank you, Phil Wilhelm!”

(Bob Desautels is a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis.)

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