Hockey was Phillips' first love

Nathan Liewicki
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Lawyer 'flabbergasted' by surprise 60th anniversary celebration

Lyle Phillips thought he was being taken to look at a convertible his son-in-law was looking to buy for his daughter’s 60th birthday. At least that was what his son-in-law told him.

Lyle Phillips, 86, talks about his tenure as a lawyer at a surprise 60th anniversary celebration in Wakamow Valley for him Wednesday evening. Phillips is currently the second longest-serving lawyer in Saskatchewan.

Instead it turned out the drive into Wakamow Valley late Wednesday afternoon was for a celebration. The celebration happened to be for Phillips, also known as Ossie.

“This is totally unexpected,” Phillips, 86, told the group of about 70 friends, family members, judges, prosecutors and colleagues. “It’s amazing how many people you can get out when you give them a free meal.”

The group – much to the surprise of Phillips – was on hand to recognize the 60th anniversary of him being called to the bar.

Only one other lawyer has been practising in Saskatchewan longer than Phillips: James Sanderson of Prince Albert, who has been a lawyer for 61 years.

Although Sanderson did not make the trek down to Moose Jaw, he sent a letter congratulating Phillips on his six decades as a lawyer. So too did Justice Minister Gordon Wyant and Saskatchewan Trial Lawyers Association President Mark Vanstone.

There were in-person greetings from others, including Dave Chow of Chow McLeod Barristers and Solicitors, the firm he has worked at since 2008.

However, law was not Phillips’ first love. Like many Canadian boys, it was hockey.

After graduating from Central Collegiate in 1946, Phillips left the Friendly City to pursue his dream.

“I went on a scholarship to the University of Michigan out of high school and it lasted a year,” Phillips told the Times-Herald. “Engineering and I didn't get along.”

Despite leaving Ann Arbor, Mich., after his freshman year, Phillips said he still roots for the Wolverines.

“I then went to a couple of Detroit (Red Wings) camps and they sent me to school at Assumption College in Windsor – now the University of Windsor – and majored in business administration,” Phillips added. “After that I came back to Sask. and took my law degree.”

While he worked toward his law degree at the University of Saskatchewan, Phillips continued to play hockey. He served as the Huskies captain for the three years he was in Saskatoon.

Although he has aged a few years, longtime friends Denny Devine, Jim Sargeant and Bill Itcush contested Phillips remains as into sports and as he did all those years ago.

“At his age right now, he’s still a good golfer,” said Itcush. “He still hits a good ball.”

Devine recalled another sport Phillips succeeded at.

“I remember he was one of the guys – one of the football players on the Central football team,” said Devine.

Although Phillips noted some of his career highlights as a lawyer includes fighting cases at the Supreme Court level, the relationships he formed with people in the legal sphere are more important to him. So too is the support of his family, and his wife of 62 years.

“It's been a wonderful 60 years that's gone by so fast that I wish I could start over,” said Phillips. “I might even do a little better.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Assumption College, Prince Albert, University of Michigan Times-Herald Red Wings University of Windsor University of Saskatchewan Supreme Court

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Wakamow Valley, Moose Jaw Friendly Ann Arbor, Mich. Detroit Saskatoon

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