Phillip Stephen Fairbanks

Emily Mandel


Phillip Stephen Fairbanks

1946 – 2021


Phillip was born in Ventura, California, in 1946. In high school he ran track and field, and worked summers in the orange orchards outside of Fillmore, the town where he was raised. Phillip always said he left Southern California because he wanted seasons. He moved north for college. He studied electrical engineering and psychology at Oregon State and San Jose State, and graduated with a psychology degree from San Francisco State College.  


During the Vietnam War he was granted conscientious objector status, which involved serving on the home front in a variety of jobs, including working in a hospital kitchen and doing building maintenance work at a retirement home. In early 1972 he was released from his draft board obligations, and immigrated to Canada that summer. He lived briefly in Edmonton before moving to Vancouver Island. 


Phillip lived in various places on Vancouver Island and on Denman and Hornby Islands in the years that followed. He built a house in Merville. He worked as a treeplanter for fourteen years, and later had a one-man plumbing and gas fitting business. He was married twice. He had five children. He sometimes wrote poetry, and was proud that one of his poems had once been kept by an editor at The Raincoast Chronicles. He loved canoeing, fishing, photography, music, and camping with his kids. 


When his mother’s health began to decline in the ‘90s, Phillip moved back to California to take care of her and stayed there for a few years. A decade later, in search of adventure and a change of scenery, he lived for three years in New York City, where he worked in the building maintenance department of an art school in Brooklyn and spent a lot of time walking the streets of New York, taking photographs. Phillip never lived in any one place for very long. But home, broadly speaking, was the British Columbia coast, to which he always returned. He lived the last few years of his life in Victoria.


He died peacefully at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria on September 17th. The cause of death was lung cancer. He is survived by his five children (Nate, Emily, Evan, Colin, and Alice), his six grandchildren (Adrian, Moss, Dylan, Chloe, Cassia, and Ronan), his sister Anita, and his former wives, Janet Fairbanks and Anne Davis. He was loved and will be deeply missed.