Friday, February 27, 2015


St. Anna Julia Cooper was born on August 10, 1858, in Raleigh, NC, USA. She was a lay Episcopalian, guardian, world-famous scholar, linguist, educator, speaker, author, and advocate for the rights of black southern women.

She is the author of A VOICE FROM THE SOUTH: BY A WOMAN FROM THE SOUTH, as well as historically significant speeches, essays, and other written works. She died at the age of 105 (!), on February 27, 1964, in Washington, D.C. The Episcopal Church honors her on February 28 along with Elizabeth Evelyn Wright.

Anna’s mother, Hannah Stanley Haywood:

  . . . was a slave and the finest woman I have ever known. Presumably, my father was her master (George Washington Haywood); if so, I owe him not a sou (French for “small coin”) and she was always too modest and shamefaced ever to mention him.
The Voice of AJC (See Sources.), page 331.

At 10 years old, she received a scholarship and began classes at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, a primary-to-high school established by the Episcopal Church specifically for the training of teachers to educate former slaves. After a few months studying on the girls’ track, she demanded to be switched to the boys’ track which contained actual academic and college-preparatory classes.

The school administrators agreed based on her entrance test scores. Three years later, they hired Anna to tutor older students.

In 1877, Anna married Rev. George A. Cooper who had been a student at the school when he was preparing for the Episcopal ministry. Alas, he died only two years later. She never married again.

She earned a B.A. in Math from Oberlin College in Ohio on July 27, 1881. She began teaching, earned a M.A. in teaching, and moved to Washington, D.C., where she taught at a high school for black students, M. Street High School. She published essays, and gave speeches about race and women's inequalities from the perspective of being neither a black man nor a white woman. She didn’t fully belong to either group that was struggling so hard for their rights. She was a black southern woman -- a voice for the voiceless. This is what she said:

We need men who can let their interest and gallantry extend outside the circle of their aesthetic appreciation; men who can be a father, a brother, a friend to every weak, struggling unshielded girl. We need women who are so sure of their own social footing that they need not fear leaning to lend a hand to a fallen or a falling sister. We need men and women who do not exhaust their genius splitting hairs on aristocratic distinctions and thanking God they are not as others; but earnest, unselfish souls, who can go into the highways and byways, lifting up and leading, advising and encouraging with the truly catholic benevolence of the Gospel of Christ.
Voice of AJC, page 64

A VOICE FROM THE SOUTH: BY A WOMAN FROM THE SOUTH was published in 1892 and is full of insights about the social conditions of her day:

A conference of earnest Christian men has met at regular intervals for some years, part to discuss the best methods of promoting the welfare and the development of the colored people in this country. Yet, strange as it may seem, they have never invited a colored man or ever intimated that one would be welcome to take part in their deliberations.

The second important oversight in my judgment is closely allied to this and probably grows out of it, and that is not developing Negro womanhood as an essential fundamental for the elevation of the race, and utilizing this agency in extending the work of the Church.

That some do ask questions and insist on answers, in class too, must be both impertinent and annoying. Let not our spiritual pastors and masters, however; be grieved at such self-assertion as merely signifies we have a destiny to fulfill and as men and women we must be about our Father’s business.
Voice of AJC, Pages 66-67

After writing of the importance of educating both black men and women for leadership roles in the Church, she focused in on black women:

Indeed to my mind, the attitude of the Church toward this feature of her work is as if the solution of the problem of Negro missions depends solely on sending a quota of deacons and priests into the field, girls being a sort of tertium quid (Latin for “third thing”) whose development may be promoted if they can pay their way and fall in with the plans mapped out for the training of the other sex.

Will not the aid of the Church be given to prepare our girls in head, heart, and hand for the duties and responsibilities that await the intelligent wife, the Christian mother, the earnest, virtuous, helpful woman, at once both the lever and fulcrum of uplifting the race?
Voice of AJC, Page 69

As a linguist, she drops many foreign words into her writing and her advanced vocabulary was also the norm of the academic writing of her day. Modern readers may have to work a little to understand her references. But it’s worth it for bits such as the following which applies to certain men of all races:

I was asked by a white friend, “How is it that the men of your race seem to outstrip the women in mental attainment?”

“Oh,” I said, “So far as it is true, the men, I suppose, from the life they lead, again more by contact; and so far as only apparent, I think the women are more quiet. They don’t feel called to mount a barrel and harangue by the hour every time they imagine they have produced an idea.”
Voice of AJC, Page 84

Then she gets right to the point:

To be plain, I mean, let money be raised and scholarships be founded in our colleges and universities for self-supporting worthy young women to offset and balance the aid that can always be found for boys who will take theology.

The earnest well-trained Christian young woman, as a teacher, as a home-maker, as a wife, mother, or silent influence even, is as potent a missionary agency among our people as is a theologian; and I claim that at the present stage of our development in the South she is ever more important and necessary.
Voice of AJC, Page 90

This next section puts in perspective the racism black southern women faced every day:

And yet she has seen these same “gentlemanly and efficient” railroad conductors when their cars had stopped at stations having no raised platforms, making it necessary for passengers to take the long and trying leap from the car step to the ground or step on the narrow little stool placed under by the conductor, after standing at their posts and handing woman after woman from the steps to the stool, thence to the ground, or else relieving her of satchels and bags and enabling her to make the descent easily, deliberately fold their arms and turn round when the Black Woman’s turn came to alight – bearing her satchel, and bearing besides another unnamable burden inside the heaving bosom and tightly compressed lips.

The feeling of slighted womanhood is unlike every other emotion of the soul  . . . it’s holier than that of jealously, deeper than indignation, tenderer than rage. Its first impulse of wrathful protest and proud self-vindication is checked and shamed by the consciousness that self assertion would outrage still further the same delicate instinct.
Voice of AJC, Page 92

Anna believed that it’s the different races of America that is its strongest feature and that its vitality will only grow as the races work together for the common good:

Has he religion, he does not want to be made to feel that there is a white Christ and a black Christ, a white Heaven and a black Heaven, a white Gospel and a black Gospel – the one ideal of perfect manhood and womanhood the one universal longing for development and growth, the desire for being, and being better, the great yearning, aspiring, outreaching, in all the heart-throbs of humanity in whatever race or clime.

It is only through the clearing the eyes from bias and prejudice, and becoming one with the great all pervading soul of the universe that either art or science can read what is still unread in the manuscripts of God.
Voice of AJC, Page 102

From that general statement on race, she concludes with her point on black women:

The colored woman must stamp weal or woe on the coming history of this people. May she see her opportunity and vindicate her high prerogative.
Voice of AJC, Page 118

I speak for the colored women of the South, because it is there that the millions of blacks in this country have watered the soil with blood and tears, and it is there too that the colored woman of America has made her characteristic history, and there her destiny is evolving.
Voice of AJC, Page 202

Anna was appointed principal of M Street High School in 1901. Meanwhile, she continued with her speaking engagements, work with the poor, and writing (as she did throughout her long life).

In 1905, she was fired from M. Street High School when she refused an order by the school administration to dumb down her curriculum for the black students as they feared their “over education” would be perceived as a threat to white society.

She moved to Missouri and taught at Lincoln University until 1911 when a new administration called her back to M. Street High School.

Some historians believe that she began pursuit of a doctorate in 1914 to “erase” the shame of being fired by her beloved school. Perhaps. But, it could be argued that she simple had a burning desire to first learn and then teach.

Her pursuit of a French doctorate was put on hold in 1915, due to a family emergency – her deceased brother’s wife died, leaving behind five children who needed her:

. . .ranging in age from an infant of 6 months to the ripe age of 12 years. I had taken them under my wing with the hope and determination of nurturing their growth into useful and creditable American citizens.

With butter at 75 cents per pound still soaring, sugar severely rationed at any price and fuel oil obtainable only on affidavit in person at regional centers, the judge at Children’s Court – on occasion I had to report there – said to me: “My, but you are a brave woman!” Not as brave as you might imagine, was my mental rejoinder – only stubborn, perhaps or foolhardy, according to the point of view.
Voice of AJC, Page 322

She was able to hire nannies or domestics over the years to help her (one in particular she referred to as Aunt Charlotte), but she had to work extra hours to earn the income needed to run her house and raise her nieces and nephews.

In the summer of 1920, she took a job supervising a playground in West Virginia where she met the unsocialized children of a particular woman whom she tried to befriend by visiting her home to bring her a basket that she had taught the woman’s son to weave. At the door, the woman responded:

“I keep to myself; I don’t want nothin’ to do with nobody.”

“But Mrs. Berry,” I persisted, “You can’t live that way! You can’t be in the world without having something to do with people!”

“I been livin’ that way longer’n you been livin’ yo’ way,” she rejoined.

After using all the illustrations and arguments I could think of to suggest the interdependence of man on man, I was rewarded by seeing the merest ghost of a smile flint across her countenance, more like the quivering glean of faraway lightning than the steady radiance of sunlight and dawn. We were still standing where I could look out from the threshold of the porch on the muddy water of the Ohio River. “There’s nothing you could get to eat,” I continued, “without calling in someone to help you out. You can go to the river and fish --- ”

“And then I’d have to have lard to cook ‘em with,” she put in brightly.

Good! I knew I had struck fire and we were friends at last.

As I came down the steps she called out almost shamefacedly, “When you come to town again, come to see me!”

“Oh no,” I bantered. “You don’t want to see anybody!”

“Well, if all was like you,” she answered dismally.

It was not till I had left that town that I understood the tragedy of Mrs. Berry’s grim struggle with life. Her husband, an innocent man, had been torn from her arms by an infuriated mob and brutally murdered – lynched.

The town realized its mistake afterwards when the true culprit confessed, but it was too late to bind up that broken family, and the humble drama of that obscure black woman like a wounded animal with her cubs literally digging herself in and then at bay dumbly turning to face – America her “head bloody and unbowed” – I swear the pathos and inexorable fatefulness of that titanic struggle—an inescapable one in the clash of American forces, is worthy an Epic for its heroic grandeur and unconquerable grit!
Voices of AJC, Page 228-229

Anna returned to her doctorial work in 1923, in which she had to travel to Paris several times without support or permission from her school administration. Her job was in peril more than once, but she prevailed and earned her doctorate in 1925.

Her doctoral thesis, written and spoken in the French language, is a history of French slavery, and it explains what happened to modern-day Haiti related to slavery, sugar trade, and the French Revolution. (The text can be found in the fourth part of the VOICE OF ANNA JULIA COOPER, see sources.) It’s a fascinating read and is specific in details more broadly described in a recent article on sugar:

According to Trinidadian politician and historian Eric Williams, “Slavery was not born of racism; rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.” Africans, in other words, were not enslaved because they were seen as inferior; they were seen as inferior to justify the enslavement required for the prosperity of the early sugar trade. – Rich Cohen, National Geographic

Anna retired from M. Street High School in 1925 and supported the arts by opening up her home to performers and friends:

We used to meet in my study, where there was a second piano, not to disturb or be disturbed by the youngsters of my household, who were frankly “bored” by music not distinctly of their generation.
Voice of AJC, Page 318

In other words, she was a typical mother with typical children.

She continued her good works through the rest of her long “retirement” and never wavered in her message:

If the Christ, who was despised and rejected of men nearly 2,000 years ago, were making a second attempt to come to His own among the very men who built temples in His name and magnify their civilization to give Him lip service, would He find Himself again rejected for choosing the humble of earth to confound the pride of the mighty?

Today we see his living presence in some of the least of his children rejected, repressed and forced outside the pale for no better reason than that a certain pigment is not preferred by those who make up the books.
Voice of AJC, page 298

In 1930 she became president of Frelinghuysen University and held that position until 1941. Afterwards, she continued teaching and publishing for many years. She celebrated her 100th birthday on August 10, 1958.

Anna Julia Cooper died at home at the age of 105, on February 27, 1964. She is buried in Raleigh, North Carolina next to her husband.

Eternal God, you inspired Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright with the love of learning and the joy of teaching: Help us also to gather and use the resources of our communities for the education of all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


THE VOICE OF ANNA JULIA COOPER: Including A VOICE FROM THE SOUTH and Other Important Essays, Papers and Letters, Edited by Charles Lemert and Esme Bhan


Within all the words spoken for the voiceless of her era, Anna message to them was -- there's too much work to do to be ashamed of who you are.

Yet, I empathize with those who are disenfranchised by the society of their own country as I've experienced this myself, on a much smaller scale, when I was rejected by a group of friends.

It hurt me on a deep level.

And I wondered why I couldn’t shake it off as Groucho Marx did when he said, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” (Or, for my younger dearworthy readers, like Taylor Swift.)

And so, I embarked on an investigative study as to what I was feeling, why I felt it, and what could I possibly do to make it stop.

The Lord led me to articles and books that helped tremendously such as:

A RETURN TO LOVE: REFLECTIONS ON THE PRINCIPLES OF “A COURSE IN MIRACLES” by Marianne Williamson  -- The basic message is “God is love. Everything else is fear.” 

ASSERTIVENESS FOR EARTH ANGELS: HOW TO BE LOVING INSTEAD OF “TOO NICE” by Doreen Virtue -- This one is really good for those of us who are tuned into the emotions of others and is especially helpful in the area of shielding ourselves from negative emotions.

I also spoke with friends who blessed me with their empathy, insights, advice, and prayers. One true, intuitive friend introduced me to my cloud of shame and then recommended the written works of Brené Brown.

Now, I had already read Brené Brown’s DARING GREATLY: HOW THE COURAGE TO BE VULNERABLE TRANSFORMS THE WAY WE LIVE, LOVE, PARENT, AND LEAD when it was first published and I loved it! I had been intrigued enough at the time to purchase her earlier work, I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST ME (BUT IT ISN’T): MAKING THE JOURNEY FROM “WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK? TO “I AM ENOUGH,” and had diligently placed in on my to-read pile. Sigh. Here's the thing about books, they don't do any good until you read them.

That evening, I wiggled it out of my to-read pile without causing an avalanche and settled in on the couch with my tea, afghan, and cats. And right there in chapter one, exactly what I was feeling -- "Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging." - Brené Brown


Then, as I turned pages and dug deeper, I uncovered within myself a parental-conditioned unworthiness that I unconsciously fed with an addiction to shame avoidance and approval seeking. This had been a hidden factor in all my relationships since young childhood.

Break through!

I shined His light on that demon and it vanished. 

Within quality books; the empathy of friends; saintly and angelic messages; and the silence of solitude in which I prayed and listened; I heard Him:

"You are my Love -- worthy and worthwhile. So, woman up, and let's get to work."

And finally. Finally. In my mind, heart, and deep down in my soul, I believe Him.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16 HOLY BIBLE, New Revised Standard Version

Dearworthy readers, let your light shine! There's work to be done.

Brené Browne just might be the Anna Julia Cooper of our time. But don't take my word for it, check out her web site and books for yourself.

And remember, “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” -- Groucho Marx


In honor of the olive branch of authentic friendship shared between Anna and Mrs. Berry, I offer my family’s favorite river-fish recipe:



One or two pound fillet of Salmon, wild caught
½ to 1 TBS Soy Sauce
½ to 1 TBS Olive Oil


1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Coat baking sheet with olive oil.
3. Rinse salmon.
4. Place on baking sheet, season with soy sauce.
5. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until opaque.

Serve with pasta or rice and vegetables or salad.

Try to purchase wild-caught and not farm-raised salmon as fish farms are bad for the environment


Bonus Material:

If you are looking for something good that we can all work on together, I recommend either or both of these groups:

As well as:

Friday, October 10, 2014



St. Philip the Deacon and Evangelist was born early in the first century probably near Jerusalem. He is remembered as one of the first seven deacons of the Church, for converting a large Samarian community, and for baptising an Ethiopian royal official who later founded the Christian Church in Ethiopia. After raising a family in Caesarea Maritima, St. Philip became the Bishop of Lydia in modern-day Turkey and died on an unknown date.

He is honored in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal Churches who celebrate his feast day on October 11. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches, he is honored as one of the Seventy Apostles and his feast is celebrated on June 6.

Throughout history, people have mixed up St. Philip the Deacon with St. Philip the Apostle. Arguments in favor of this possibility are based on the fact that both were Greek, good with money, and that one Philip would have made the perfect link between the two groups. However, the passage from Acts about the Samarians wouldn't makes sense if he were the Apostle Philip. So we'll go with the general modern-day belief that they were separate individuals.

Philip appears for the first time in Acts when he is chosen from the Greek-speaking Jewish community to serve as one of the first deacons, although the word "deacon" is not used:

Now during those days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables (or keep accounts).

Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.

What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
                                                        Acts 6:1-6

In Acts 7:54-60, we read of the persecution and death of St. Stephen by public stoning, resulting in our honoring of him as the first Christian martyr who died for his public belief in Jesus Christ. To escape their own persecution, Philip and many other Christians left the city and spread the Word throughout the lands.

Samarians practiced Judaism with some added paganism. The other Jews considered them unclean, and so rejected and avoided them. Philip discovered that the Samarians were very much open to the teachings of Jesus Christ and baptism:

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said, by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed: and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.

Now a certain man named Simon had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 

And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.
                                               Acts: 8:4-13

In Acts 8:14-25, the Apostles Peter and John traveled to lay their hands on the newly baptized to “confirm” their baptism with the Holy Spirit. It could also be that it hadn’t occurred to the Apostles that people outside their Jewish community were open to conversion so they wanted to check it out and get in on it.

The next passage shows Philip literally jumping in (to a chariot) to teach someone who was already open to learning. This is another instance in which Philip recognized someone’s Christian potential and helped him along his journey:

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went.

Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Get over to this chariot and join it.” 

So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 

He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

        “Like a sheep he was led to slaughter,
          and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
          so he does not open his mouth.
          In his humiliation justice was denied him.
          Who can describe his generation?
          For his life is taken away from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”

Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water: and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 

He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
                                            Acts 8:26-40

The eunuch traveled home and, according to oral tradition, later established the Christian Church in Ethiopia.

In Caesarea, St. Philip married and raised a family. Twenty-four years later, St. Paul and St. Luke showed up for a visit. St. Luke is the author of Acts and refers to himself in the first person:

The next day we left and came to Caesarea; and we went into the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who had the gift of prophecy.
                                  Acts 21:8-9

It was most likely during this visit that Luke learned the details of Philip’s earlier activities which he included in the beginning of Acts.

This passage also shows how St. Philip encouraged his daughters in their good works as messengers of God instead of marrying them off as was the custom of their day.

It’s believed that some days after the visit of Paul and Luke, Philip went on a mission to Lydia (in modern-day Turkey) where he became the bishop of Tralles and died peacefully on an unknown date.

Some ancient texts also state that his daughters traveled on missions as well. Unfortunately, this was during a dangerous time for Christians. After creating a hospice for the poor in Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey), St. Hermione was martyred by the occupying Romans for spreading the Word of Jesus Christ. Her feast day is celebrated on September 4 in the Eastern Orthodox Church.  

Holy God, no one is excluded from your love, and your truth transforms the minds of all who seek you: As your servant Philip was led to embrace the fullness of your salvation and to bring the stranger to Baptism, so give us all the grace to be heralds of the Gospel, proclaiming your love in Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.





An Ethiopian recipe would be perfect for St. Philip the Evangelist. Click here to see a variety of Ethiopian dishes.

Alas, dearworthy readers, having never tasted Ethiopian food, I didn't have time to learn about the food, enjoy a meal at an Ethiopian restaurant, and then try to recreate a recipe at home. But it’s on my list.

Instead I offer a recipe for sautéed bok choy because during a recent morning walk, I suddenly began crying over my nephew Phil. Grief comes at you like that sometimes, in unexpected waves.

Phillip Alexander Ross died on August 10, 2011, at the age of 28 due to sleep apnea only a year after his dear mother, Sandra, passed following a courageous battle with cancer.

Here’s the Remembrance I gave at his funeral:

            I became Phil’s aunt 20 years ago when I married his uncle Stuart. But I had met him five years before that when Phil was three years old at the beach house overlooking Duxbury Bay. One morning, we went outside to enjoy the beautiful day. The sun shone on the green grass while the soft sound of the ocean waves and the muddy scent of the marsh wafted up to us. Phil was an adorable bundle of energy. I’ll never forget that I convinced him to be my pillow so that I could lie down and look up at the clouds drifting across the blue sky above. Phil was totally into it. For about 5 seconds. I got him to do it three times. For about 5 seconds. Then he was off running to play. What nerve I had making him my pillow. But that he did it, even for the tiniest amount of time was a true gift.

            My next memory is of the family all gathered together to watch a video of Phil demonstrating how to cook bok choy for a school assignment. Bok choy. Never heard of it, never wanted to cook it. So I didn’t pay attention to his actual demonstration. Instead I focused on the serious and intense way that Phil handled the demo and the beaming pride on his mother’s face as we watched. It never occurred to me to tell Phil this, but whenever I see or hear the word “bok choy” I think of him. And in a real ironic twist, every now and then bok choy is delivered in our North Carolina Produce Box. I’ve tried different recipes, but every time I try to cook it, I burn the leaves. I should have paid attention to his demo.

            Phil had a particular silly sense of humor. It’s a Ross trait that occurs is only a few of the Ross’s. Don’t get me wrong, we all love to laugh and we all can be pretty funny. However, Phil had that particular sense of humor that his father had seen before in his little brother, Stuart. That’s why when young Phil was being really silly, he’d call him Stu. Then to complicate matters, a new Ross was born named Don the third. Soon little Donny was running around being silly and Don would say, “Calm down, Stu, I mean Phil, I mean Donny. Oh whatever.”  And then Papa, Don the first, recognizing a part of himself in that silly sense of humor, would sit back and giggle.

            Once when Donny was about seven, we were up for Christmas and playing our traditional Santa Swap game in which we buy mostly annoying presents to throw into the grab bag. Depending on your number, you can either grab from the big bag or take a present away from someone else so they’d have to grab from the bag again. This one year, careful to spend the correct dollar amount, Phil threw in a ten-pound bag of potatoes. What an amazingly annoying present especially to those of us who traveled by airplane. I thought that was absolutely hysterical. But Donny’s memory is stronger than mine and he remembers the rest of the story. Phil spent the entire game trying to win the potatoes back so he could give them to his brother, Andrew, who was just getting into gourmet cooking. And he did it.

            That’s the way Phil was – supportive of others and their endeavors. About 5 years ago; Phil was assigned to be my Secret Santa. He gave me this tee shirt that says, “Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel.” I love this shirt because it’s a bit snarky and defiant. And I love it because he recognized me as a writer. Most people don’t recognize writers until they’re published, and sometimes writers believe that themselves. At the time, it was pretty powerful for me to know that Phil recognized and supported the writer in me. I wear this shirt whenever the writing gets particularly challenging.
            Donny never got around to telling Phil about his love of the Marx Brothers and especially Harpo. But if he had, we know that Phil would have found a way to recognize and support Donny in this interest. Donny’s in the process of growing out his hair so it will look like Harpo’s hair. We know that it would have been appropriate to get his hair cut for this service, but we feel in a way that we are honoring Phil who also had naturally curly hair. But, more importantly, we feel that we are honoring him because Harpo was funny and Phil loved to laugh.
            Our best, most consistent memories of Phil are in the playing of board games. Especially Balderdash -- a game in which players make up fake definitions in an effort to convince the other players that it’s the real definition to obscure words. As an early morning riser myself, I’m usually too tired to play when the rest of the gang pulls out the board, but I love to sit by and crochet so I can get in on the laughs. Donny called Phil the laugh starter. If Phil thought a definition was funny, the laughter spread like a warm flame across the table and around the room.
           We writers aren’t supposed to use clichés, but I believe that laughter is good for the soul. So Phil we invite you and your mom to swing down from heaven to listen in the next time we play Balderdash. From now on, every game we play together is dedicated to you.
            (I added a Celtic prayer I learned from my priest, Rev. Mark Powell. It’s adapted a bit due to my faulty memory.)
           Lord, help us to be swift to love and hasten to be kind for we do not know how long we have to gladden the hearts of others. Grant us your loving comfort and peace all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Just like St. Philip acted upon the Christian potential in a group of Samarians (whom the Apostles originally considered unworthy of attention), and the Ethiopian who was curious, Philip Ross saw the potential in others and supported them along their path with his interest and a side order of humor.

I believe that saintly attributes are handed down generation by generation in the naming of babies after saints (or relatives who were named for saints). If I were to argue for that belief, I’d say - Where else would Phil have picked up his habit of supporting the potential in others?

And then I’d argue the other side and say - Watch the video again. Every member of Phil’s family, including his grandmother, helped him with their expertise and support of his potential (in this case to hold it together and not laugh too much).

Speaking of which, when I recently watched Phil’s cooking video again, I discovered why the bok choy segment stayed with me – let’s just say, not all of it made it into the pan. See Bonus Material at Time 5:00.


Sautéed Bok Choy

More photos below.


1 bunch of adult or 2 bunches of baby bok choy
4 teaspoons olive oil divided
Soy sauce to taste


1. Separate leaves and wash bok choy.
2. Separate green stuff from white stuff.
3. Chop into bite size pieces and keep separate.
4. Place 2 teaspoons of olive oil in frying pan over medium high heat.
5. Sauté white stuff until golden. Season with soy sauce.
6. Repeat Step 4 and 5 with the green stuff. Sauté for less time than the white stuff and stir regularly.
7. Combine golden white and green stuff in a serving bowl.
7. Served as a side dish or as part of a stir fry with rice, protein, and other vegetables.




Bonus Material:

Phil's Video