Philip Dennis “Uncle Phil” Heim, 80, beloved husband, father, brother and friend, passed away peacefully on February 8, 2017.
A longtime resident of Fredericksburg, he was affectionately known by many as “Uncle Phil.” Phil was born in North Liberty, Indiana to the late Philip and Florence Dennis Heim. He graduated from Liberty Township High School in North Liberty, Indiana in 1954. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After initially swabbing decks, he landed a gig playing accordion in the Admiral’s Jazz Band in Virginia Beach. Spending his days on the beach and his nights playing music, he took a fancy to the spoon bread served at the Surrey Cafeteria, or possibly the young lady serving the spoon bread, Shirley O. Conrad.
Phil Heim and Shirley Conrad were married on August 18, 1957 and remained married for 52 years, until Shirley’s passing in October 2009. In 1957, Phil and Shirley settled in to build their life in Fredericksburg. One of their mutual passions was dancing. They worked together to form the local dance troupe, The GoodTime Cloggers.
Phil became a fixture in the local music scene. He was an original member and the first director of the Fredericksburg Big Band. Phil would sit in or fill in with about every band in town at the time as he could play any style of music with anyone. He fluidly played big bass, piano, accordion, clarinet and guitar. Given his multi-genre musical talent, one might have heard him play jazz, pop, traditional standards or western swing. These genres took him to stages as far as Czechoslovakia and as renowned as the Kennedy Center and White House inaugurations.
Phil received a bachelor of science with high honors from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1974 and subsequently a master of science from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1976. Highlights of his career include his work helping youth as principal of the Rouser Center in the Stafford County School System when the center was used as a vocational school for students needing an alternative educational path. He found his niche as vice president of Northern Neck Distributing Company where he spent the last twenty plus years of his career.
Phil served on local boards including the Fredericksburg School Board and the Fredericksburg YMCA. He was an active member in the Navy’s Musician Association. He was a founding member of the non-profit Virginia Music Hall of Fame and Museum in its quest to become a reality.
In 2011, Phil published a children’s book in honor of his wife, “The Thistlewhistles” as he was also a talented writer. Most recently he was gathering years of poems and short stories for publication. Other notable hobbies included his love of horses, archeology, and a genuine passion for learning.
Phil was a good man, unique, authentic, kind and wearing a perpetual smile. He will be deeply missed.
Survivors include his daughter, Aileen Heim (T. Campbell) of Fredericksburg; sister Phyllis Tuholski (Larry); brothers Jim Coppens (Teresa) and Bud Hough (Barb); many nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife; and sister, Cheryl Heim Rizek.
A memorial service will be held at Noon on Saturday, Feb. 18 at The Riverside Dinner Theater. A Celebration of Life will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Heart and Vascular Center of the UVA Health System, P.O. Box 800354, Charlottesville, Va. 22908 or payable to “The Virginia Music Hall of Fame and Museum” c/o Phil Heim, 1600 Franklin St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401.