By Pamela Brownstein
Between boat building, basketball and being a professional brainstormer, Beaufortonian Phil West has led a full life made complete by diverse experiences.
He grew up in New Jersey where he recalls excelling in school — whether learning symbolic logic in seventh grade or getting a perfect score on a state trigonometry exam, when his teacher thought he must have been cheating.
In college he said, “liberal arts came easy to me,” so he challenged himself by entering a contest for chemistry students and winning the prize — the “Handbook of Chemistry and Physics,” which didn’t help him much as a student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree.
After graduating, he went to work in New York City in the early 1960s. He said he dated women from the all-girls’ colleges such as Radcliffe and Mt. Holyoke, until he met his wife, Susan, at a party in the city.
Phil and Susan lived in New Jersey and had four children — two girls and two boys. During that time, he developed a passion for sailing and his wife encouraged him to build his own boat. Even though he had no experience at all, it took him six years to finish the 35 ft. trimaran he started from scratch, and he sailed it for the first time out of Edison, N.J.
Phil and his family moved to Hilton Head Island in 1981, which he admits was his wife’s idea. He worked in consulting and developed a publication about technology. Phil said several times his clients still in New York City would fly him up to take part in professional brainstorming sessions that he really enjoyed.
As with any life, the loss of a loved one too young can have lasting effects. While they lived in Hilton Head, Phil lost Susan to cancer when she was only 49; they had been married for 26 years.
After that, Phil moved to Beaufort, the city he’s called home for more than 13 years. He jokes about living the
bachelor life, which is why he likes to stay active and get out of the house, because he said it’s easy to stay in and just watch TV.
Sports have always been an important part of Phil’s life, and he calls himself “a basketball fiend.” He said at one time he was on four different teams at the YMCA. Up until recently he could often be found on the court at the Wardle YMCA in Port Royal, but arthritis has slowed his game down a bit.
His health has also thwarted his plan to live on the boat that he started building in his backyard. But Phil still stays busy by advancing his budding writing career. He’s penned short stories and also published his novel, “The Tank,” a sci-fi thriller that deals with genetics.
He likes to spend time at the coffee shop or watching sports, especially the USC Gamecocks. He also gets together often with his grown kids, and nine grandchildren.
When asked about his proudest achievement, Phil paused. “I guess I should say my children,” he said with a laugh, “but I would have to say it was the launch day after I built my first boat. That was quite a moment.”