Zeblisky, Philip, 60
This beautiful man died on an early January morning after LIVING with stage 4 pancreatic cancer for three years and eight months. Along the journey he brought hope to so many others.
Phil was born in Mineola, NY. He had a strong work ethic and persistence, even as a child, enrolling in accelerated classes at school and participating in Boy Scouts. At age 9 Phil became a big brother after the family received a call that an infant girl was available for adoption. Even at this young age Phil approached this new role with the same sense of responsibility and commitment as he did in every part of his life. The love and sense of protection he had for his sister Terry was lifelong. He became a paper boy at age 13 and at age 14 he began volunteering with the American Red Cross and the Easter Seals Society, and was a member of the National Honor Society. After graduating from Bethpage High School he attended SUNY Stony Brook in NY, where he met the love of his life and soul mate, his wife Kathy. He greatly enjoyed his studies at the W. Averell Harriman College of Policy Analysis, where he was awarded a Teaching Fellowship, and worked part-time all through his college years. He graduated with a BA in Political Science and a Master’s in Policy Analysis. His career began as a Project Analyst in the New York City Comptroller’s Office, and he was then awarded a Presidential Management Internship to the U.S. Small Business Administration. In December of 1980 he married his love Kathy, one of the most joyful days of his life. It was at this time he began his life-long love of physical activities, and ran the Long Island Marathon in 1982. The 1980s brought employment at Grumman Aerospace, and after earning a Master’s in Accounting in 1988, at Deloitte and Touche.
In 1991 he and his love moved to Arizona in search of a better lifestyle. He continued to work in public accounting at KPMG Peat Marwick as an Account Manager, until he joined the Del Webb Corporation in 1993. It was here he found a true passion, serving as an Assistant Controller at Del Webb’s Sun City West, and as a Controller at the Foothills and Terravita developments. In 1998 he became Vice President of Finance and Administration during the startup phase of the Anthem development in north Phoenix. He considered this to be one of his finest work experiences, working with an incredible team of talented people. Water became his life ! He negotiated an innovative water and wastewater utility agreement to serve the community. In 2000 he assumed the role of Chief Financial Officer for Del Webb’s Nevada operations, and he and his love moved to Las Vegas. Shortly thereafter Del Webb was acquired by Pulte homes, resulting in a welcome return to Phoenix. Phil continued to work in finance and real estate with start-up homebuilders. In 2009 he began work at Pivotal Group as a General Manager, until the real estate crash destroyed the dream of a projected master-planned community. He redirected his energies, developing expertise in estate planning, and probate and fiduciary services. In 2011 Phil accepted a position as a Court Accountant with the Maricopa County Superior Court Probate Division. He took his role protecting the vulnerable very seriously.
Phil’s work ethic and persistence was tested shortly after becoming a Court Accountant in 2011. Phil was always physically active, however when his knees gave out he took up the sport of cycling. He loved being outdoors and riding in a peloton with his buddies. In October of that year he was hit by a car while out on a solo ride. He sustained serious injuries, including a broken back, and might have never walked again. However with the help of a talented neurosurgeon, love of family and friends, and an indomitable spirit, Phil worked fiendishly through months and years of rehab.
In April of 2014, during his first real vacation since the accident, Phil began to feel sick and turned yellow. He was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. With the help of angels, Phil found the HonorHealth Research Institute Clinical Trials program and immediately enrolled in a trial. Amazingly after a few months of treatment he had a complete response. In 2016 Whipple surgery was performed with clear margins. However pancreatic cancer is cunning and recurred numerous times. Throughout this trying time Phil never lost his sense of self and purpose, and was even more intent on providing help to others who were also on the journey. He was a huge advocate for participating in clinical trials. He was incredibly generous of his time and talent, giving many interviews to the media, and working with HonorHealth, TGen, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the Seena Magowitz Foundation to advocate for a cure.
On December 6, 1980 he married the love of his life, Kathy, whom he met in freshman English class at SUNY Stony Brook, and he treated her like a queen. Phil was a beautiful man: persistent, loyal, kind and loving. He arranged everything before his passing, and insisted an obituary could only be published without birth or death dates to protect Kathy. He always wanted an equal partnership in his marriage, which he had for 37 years. Now Kathy will have to vacuum.
Phil loved being outdoors, whether it was walking, hiking, running or cycling, and competed in many events. He also loved to travel with Kathy, visiting national parks, cruising Alaska, Hawaii and the Caribbean, and visiting London. His most beloved trip was to the Galapagos Islands. He also enjoyed having deep, thought-provoking conversations, and loved when people challenged his opinions and made him think.
Phil is survived by his wife Kathy, his mother Sophie, his sister Terry Petaja (Michael), his sisters-in-law Lynne Gabriel and Peggy O’Brien, his Aunt Helen Albert, his nieces Dawn Olson (Brett), Laurie Vanatta (Ike), Deb Nawrotzki (Eric), nephew Timothy O’Brien, grand nephews and niece Thomas, Joseph, Vyncent, Vanessa and Nicholas, numerous other aunts, uncles and cousins, and amazing friends. He was preceded in death by his father Theodore and his brother Brian.
There are no words to thank the amazing team at the HonorHealth Research Institute, where he participated in numerous clinical trials. The cutting edge therapies offered by these trials not only extended his life for over 3 1/2 years, but also provided quality of life. His amazing team not only cared for his body, but for his mind and spirit. There are so many people to thank at clinic and at TGen and the list would be very long. Very special thanks to Dr. Erkut Borazanci, Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, Lana, Gayle, Brian and Mary. A most special thank you to Roger Magowitz. Thank you Hospice of the Valley for providing care at life’s end.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Seena Magowitz Foundation (include Phil’s name in the comments) http://www.seenamagowitzfoundation.org/donate-to-pancreatic-cancer-research/ or to HonorHealth https://www.honorhealth.com/community/honorhealth-foundation/donate select HonorHealth Research Institute in the drop-down list.
Please join us to celebrate Phil’s life. A mass will be held at 10:30 am on Saturday, February 17, 2018 at St. Paul’s Catholic Church - 330 W Coral Gables Dr, Phoenix, AZ 85023, followed at noon by a luncheon at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort - 11111 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85020.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
March 11, 2019
A life well lived !
Love to all in the family. Personal condolences to Sophie and Terry. Mary Mertz , Clifton Park,NY
March 6, 2018
Please see this piece he wrote for The Seena Magowitz Foundation shortly before he passed away. He continues to help others even after death: Message from Phil Zeblisky- The Power of Positive Attitude http://www.seenamagowitzfoundation.org/phil-zeblisky-pancreatic-cancer-warrior-gives-advice-to-patients/
February 24, 2018
A beautiful Obituary for a beautiful man. I never had the pleasure to meet Philip but through Terry and Michael i was able to get a view of what a wonderful human being he was. A fighter and lover, a gentle yet persistent man who loved his wife and family. Rest peacefully Phillip, your memory will live in so many. Susan and James Gaita
February 12, 2018
Phil & I spent many years on the HOA Board together. He was much more tolerant than I with home owner issues. We were also neighbors and during 2014 we hobbled between our homes, he with cane & me with walker to have lunch and solve the issues of the world & just talk. Very much good times. We were fortunate to dine with Phil & Kathy here in Coronado when they stayed at the Hotel Del Coronado. Phil fought a great fight valiantly for 4 years. Most always in the forefront of his mind was Kathy and her future being secured. I'll miss my friend Phil. With much love to Kathy. Gordon & Mary Ann Volpi.
February 6, 2018
February 5, 2018
Kathy, Its hard for me to put into words Phils passing . He was a great friend to me, and even greater community leader. Working with Phil on the board for the last 10 years has been a pleasure for all of us, We were blessed to have him. The courage he showed us the last several years fighting this dreadful cancer inspired us all. God bless you, God bless Phil. Bill Moore
February 5, 2018
Kathy, I am so sorry to hear of your husband's passing. He sounds like an amazing man who was not always handed a fair deck of cards, but persevered anyway with passion and dignity.
My mother also died of pancreatic cancer at age 62 and also endured the Whipple surgery. Such an aggressive cancer... I know the rough road he walked. Hugs to you and your family. Take care of yourself.
February 4, 2018
I will always remember this beautiful man who I am proud to call my brother. He was always there for me in my time of need. No matter what he was going through in his personal journey Phil always made himself available to help others. I will always love and cherish the time we had together. Rest In peace Phil.
February 2, 2018
Although we have not yet met I send you my sincere sympathy. Your husband clearly was an exceptional human being and they are always the hardest to lose. Please know your colleagues and friends are with you in spirit and prayers.
February 2, 2018
I would like to express my sympathy to the family for this great loss. May the God who comforts those that mourn sustain you during this difficult time. Isaiah 61:1,2
February 1, 2018
Kathy, words cannot express the sorrow I felt when I learned of Phil's passing. Although I did not have the privilege of knowing him very long, Rod and I always enjoyed seeing him and socializing with the two of you. He will truly be missed as he was an extraordinary person! I take solace in knowing that he is at peace and no longer in pain.
February 1, 2018
I did not know Phil but from the obituary he was a wonderful man and very special . I wish you love, peace, strength and healing.
February 1, 2018
The care team at HonorHealth's Patient/Family Advisory Council will miss Phil very much and the positive impact he made on the group in improving the care given to patients in our community. We are all praying for his peaceful rest and will remember him fondly.
January 31, 2018
Kathy, Please accept my deepest condolences on Phil's passing. I work at Celgene here in Phoenix, and I can say that no one here has forgotten the visit that you and Phil were kind enough to pay us. Many of us still have the beautiful thank you cards you made pinned up in our workspaces. They remind us that what we do is more than a job, we work for our patients, people with lives and loved ones. Thank you again, you and your family are forever in my prayers.