Obituary of Philip G Prudhomme
Obituary about Phil written by his wife Kitty
On the brilliant blue morning of March 11, 2021, Philip G. Prudhomme “stepped over” into his new life. At almost 79 years old, his “breath became air”.
To capture the essence of a person who remains a mystery, though we can talk about his personal history in the world from birth to death, defies all our abilities to measure him. So I’ll speak of a few moments of his life here.
I attribute Phil’s ability to put thoughts into words, to his mother, Helen, who expressed her life/thoughts/feelings in weekly type-written letters to her family. Whenever we wanted to reach out in words to another on any occasion, he would reach into himself and offer words of comfort, kindness, celebration, ready for me to write out, with no needed revision. Phil guides me now as I share with you about his life/work/personal gifts.
People-person Phil expressed kind words, action, and care. Hardly a swear word crossed his lips modeled from birth by his parents Henry and Helen. He related to so many: family: sisters, Marti Sketchley, Kit George and Pat Wheeler and all their relations, fellow students/priests at Mt. Angel and St. Edwards Seminaries; parishioners at St Lawrence and St. Mary Magdalene in Portland OR, St. Mary’s in Albany OR, Sacred Heart in Medford OR, St. Peter’s in Eugene OR in his role as priest and at St Leo Parish in the last 20 years as a parishioner. He continued care/connections with many clients and other counselors in his work as Mental Health Counselor during the 25 years of our marriage. His interest in people included the many doctors, nurses and medical staff who accompanied him/us over these many years. He engaged personally with everyone he met.
Phil as downhill skier and lover of nature, is best expressed from priest skier-friend Brad Killingsworth: “Thinking of the unlimited ski runs in heaven, I’m reminded of the delight of skiing over an abrupt rise and then heading down the other side into a whole new panorama below. That little catching your breath sensation as your heart jumps suddenly into your mouth is almost like a spiritual experience. We can only imagine the magnitude of such and many more delights as Phil must be experiencing at this, eternal moment. One of our favorite times was meeting in the lodge in front of a hot fireplace with hot spiced wine or a hot buttered rum reflecting on life and recovering from the day’s adventures.”
Phil the “medical miracle man” lived with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the blood plasma for 20, actually 40 years. The first 20 years, doctors kept track of his “unusual blood” tests until 2/22/2001 when MGUS (Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance) indicated Multiple Myeloma. He tolerated several treatments and then had a stem-cell transplant in 2009 at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. After recovery of the grueling process, he maintained low levels of the cancer until 2017 when treatments meant spending regular time in the Northwest Medical Specialties Infusion Lab in Tacoma under the care of oncologist, Dr. Frank Senecal. Weakened from treatments, his body did not recover from the last new MM infusion treatment on 12/22/2020. Over the 20 years of living with MM, he connected with many other patients of MM at the support group Multiple Myeloma Fighters that continues to support those with this disease.
Phil’s other major health challenges include: hernia surgeries; heart issues from family history of father and grandfather resulting for Phil in 5-way bypass surgery in 2007: gall bladder surgery; Glaucoma of the eye surgery, repeated visits to dermatology for precancerous skin treatments. Besides the costs to his body, you may imagine the exorbitant medical costs for treatment over these years and you would be right in your assessment. Phil drew on his father’s ability to figure out how to manage our finances as he wanted me to be able to manage if it came to that and it has. And “all is well” with many details unfinished.
Phil had the ability to keep any decision open-ended to my exasperation, though we always, finally, managed a good next step. We trusted in the “slow work of God”.
You may be wondering about the story of our relationship? We met at St Mary Magdalene Parish in August of 1973, he a parish priest and I a 4th grade teacher in the school. Our lives intersected over the next 23 years. At that point Phil moved from pastoring as a priest to mental health counseling. I too made my own discernment to leave the Sisters of the Holy Names community of religious sisters. We chose to join hands and make the leap of faith to marriage on November 29, 1996 and our marriage of almost 25 years. A small vignette on our honeymoon: On Saturday afternoon 11/30/1996, we arrived at Seaside OR beach cabin, carried in our gear and flipped on the TV to see if it worked. We stood in amazement as the 5 PM news report told of the ordination ceremony at St Mary’s Cathedral that day, of a former Episcopal priest married with two young adult children. This man would be serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of Portland. Our marriage meant Phil could not continue to do priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of Portland or anywhere else, though he had spent years preparing for ordination and then serving the people in various parishes in western Oregon until 1991, about 32 years of his life.
Providentially, Phil as life-long learner, prepared himself as a Mental Health Counselor which enriched his work as a priest and allowed him later to make a living after we married. Though it took awhile to find stability, he served clients at an office at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Tacoma some 15 years. He initiated with other counselors, the Pierce County Counselors Association, to gather other practitioners for continuing education and support. SCCA continues today.
Though the Covid crisis of 2020/21 gave us “cocoon time” with each other, disability issues continued to surface for him. We entered Hospice care on 1/18/2021. Phil improved with the Hospice team’s watchful care. A turning point came as I negotiated getting our Covid vaccines in the first week in March. I got my first dose but Phil became too weak to complete that process.
Phil will be cremated at Edward’s Memorial in Lakewood, Friday 3/19 at 8 AM with me and my sister Kathy Mitchell as witnesses. Later, at a day and time to be determined, we will celebrate his life in a ceremony at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Portland where many of his and my family now rest.
Phil and I would appreciate any gifts you may have in mind, be given to mental health services of your choice or to Multiple Myeloma Research with either Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation MMRF or International Myeloma Research IMF. Let me know of your choices in his name. I (and I speak for Phil here) feel gratitude for the many expressions of kindness, love and care in the past and now in this moment of Phil’s passing.
Please leave your thoughts/comments on the Edwards Memorial website.