No shadow, better weather, says this year’s ‘Tonganoxie Phil’
Phil George didn’t see his shadow when he went to work Saturday.
As this year’s honorary Tonganoxie Phil, that means an early spring in these parts, just as it did in Pennsylvania after Punxsutawney Phil saw no shadow back East.
George said it was foggy and drizzly when he first went outside Saturday, but he probably wouldn’t have seen his shadow anyway.
The 2006 Tonganoxie High School graduate works as a nurse in the medical surgical intensive care unit at the University of Kansas Health System, commonly known as KU Med, in Kansas City, Kan. Saturday’s shift started at 6 a.m., so he was headed out for the day before the sun could start to peek out.
George said he hopes his prediction turns out to be accurate.
“I hope we’re in for an early spring. I need it to warm up so I can get the kids out of the house so they stop yelling at each other, obviously,” George said with perfect timing Monday morning, just as a couple of his children squabbled about something in the next room. “They’re inside all day. Go outside and burn off some energy.”
Phil’s wife, Tara, is a counselor at Tonganoxie High School.
They have three children who Phil hopes soon will be playing outside: Gia, 6, who is in kindergarten at Tonganoxie Elementary School; Braelyn, 5, who goes to Life Daycare for pre-K; and Maverick, who will turn 2 in July.
George earned an associate’s degree in nursing in 2010 from Kansas City Kansas Community College. He currently has two classes left as he pursues a bachelor’s in nursing from Western Governors University. He has been at the KU hospital since 2010.
Each year since 2017, The Mirror has profiled an honorary Tonganoxie Phil.
The Tonganoxie Phil tradition started in the 1990s when a Kansas City radio station started interviewing Tonganoxie physician Phil Stevens annually about whether he saw his shadow on Groundhog Day, a local answer to Punxsutawney Phil.
The Mirror continued the tradition of interviewing Stevens long after the radio station.
On July 2, 2015, Stevens died in his sleep just hours after celebrating exactly 60 years of practicing medicine in Tonganoxie.
Since then, The Mirror has continued the beloved Tonganoxie legend’s tradition by asking other Phils to carry on the tradition.
In 2017, retired Tonganoxie physical education teacher Phil Jeannin was the stand-in.
Last year, it was Phil Jones, a health and physical education teacher at Tonganoxie Middle School who also is in his first year as Tonganoxie High School boys head basketball coach.
George recalled a couple memories of Dr. Stevens and his family. When Phil’s family moved to Tonganoxie in the 1990s, his parents Herb and Tammie George rented a house from Stevens’ wife Betty.
George also went to Dr. Stevens for a required annual physical to play high school athletics.
Those physicals reminded George of Stevens’ “famous” hearing test.
“He would rub his fingers right by your ear and ask if you could hear it,” George said.