A True Gentleman & A Mentor – Remembering Dennis Phillips
By Rick Greene, MAS
SAAC suffered another gut-punch as we’ve lost another organization-defining leader, past-President and Honorary Life Member. We’ve lost Dennis Phillips.
Dennis, who was one of those larger-than-life personalities that – once you met him, you could not forget him – passed away on February, 10, 2022 from complications from Alzheimer’s. He was a beloved promotional-products professional who was part of the Jack Nadel organization for decades. Indeed, he was one of organization’s leaders who helped steer JNI’s success and made it a cutting edge destination for dozens and dozens of young distributor sales talent for whom he was a mentor.
Mentor. That is one of the words that you saw in the HUNDREDS of comments on the Facebook thread that announced his passing. Mentor… Nice… So Funny… A Class Act… A Great Guy… A True Gentleman. These are some of the descriptive phrases that were used again and again on FB. All of them true. All of them Dennis.
“This one hurts,” Tommy Levin, Western Sales Director of Hit told me. “He was very kind to and loved by young people in the promotional products business. He ran our SAAC Golf Tournament for many years, he was the man! Nobody was more fun at a cocktail party! He was a great conversationalist and so fun. He loved his Jameson. He had strong opinions and he voiced them. He had a voice I still can hear. A SAAC loyalist, a SAAC old-timer, a Life Member… yes, all of those things. He was mad about his Nancy. She was his catch.”
That catch, Nancy Phillips, told me, “He was so passionate about SAAC!” I saw that first-hand many, many times.
“A true gentleman, sarcastic in the best of ways and a mentor to so, so many,” remembered multi-line rep Todd Turquand.
Dennis was President of SAAC in 2002. Fifteen years later, he was accorded our ultimate honor – Honorary Life Member. When I joined the SAAC Board of Directors in 2005, Dennis was still there, serving out a board term when someone left early. He was there because we needed him. He was always there when we needed him. When I was President of SAAC and ran our 2009 show in Long Beach, Dennis was there because I needed him. Of course, that was his wife Nancy’s first show as our Executive Director… that might have had something to do with it.
Which brings me to Nancy. Dennis and Nancy. Together for just over twenty years, a love story for the ages. Whenever Nancy spoke of Dennis, she lit up like a schoolgirl. He was her man and they were madly in love each and every day of their lives. Dennis was a terrific step-Dad to Tim and Becca. They were a family full of love, of laughter, of respect for each other.
Of course, Dennis was so much more than a promotional products sales person and teacher, than a SAAC Past President. He was a proud veteran, a member of the Air Force and a Viet Nam vet. He loved golf and he loved Jameson whiskey! He was the perfect guy to sit at the bar with and swap stories. He was a fierce friend and did not suffer fools gladly. He told you what he thought… exactly what he thought.
But, for hundreds of people who worked at JNI or volunteered on the SAAC Board, he was a rock, a mentor, a leader, a man’s man and Nancy’s man. He was freakin’ hilarious and someone you could depend on to keep his word. He displayed what Hemmingway called ‘grace under pressure.’ He touched hundreds of lives and will not be forgotten. Not ever. No way. Not Dennis Phillips.
In lieu of flowers, please direct a donation in Dennis’ memory to the Gold Coast Veterans Association at www.gcvf.org. A celebration of life is planned for later in the year.
PHOTOS: Dennis & Nancy in 2016 and Dennis Clowns at the 2014 SAAC Installation Dinner.