Have you had your Phil today?

Have+you+had+your+Phil+today%3F

Jamie Glenn

The Marquette community and far beyond comes together to honor and remember the life of Phil Pearce, owner of Phil’s 550 General Store on County Road 550. Pearce, an NMU alumnus, died on Jan. 3 after battling brain cancer for years; he was 64. His store was a destination throughout the years known for its one-of-a-kind T-shirts and witty and wacky “Philville” signs; the place and its owner became iconic and a backdrop for milestone moments in the lives of many.

Phil’s presence in Marquette began when he and his wife Deb Pearce, now an NMU culinary professor, bought the store after moving from the Virgin Islands. One of the location’s memorable attractions was its sign that is on the edge of the store’s plot that featured everything from humor, advice, sharing of local town events to recognizing the owners’ wedding anniversary.

“We were getting emails and letters of funny sayings that people have seen around the world, and we just started using them,” Pearce said. “It’s super popular for people who are getting married or celebrating anniversaries or birthdays, particularly for people who are on the Big Bay road,” she said, adding, “He would never charge anybody for it.”

Deb spoke of Phil’s unique personality and how it contributed to the positive atmosphere of the store.

“It might just be because of its uniqueness, because there aren’t a lot of places like it…Especially, I think it just boils down to Phil: that was Phil’s way; he was a random dude, you know.”
Despite Phil’s rough interior, Deb admired his drive to help others, despite his outward appearance.

“I think that’s totally just his personality. He’s always been himself. He’s transparent. He just had this drive to help somebody; he doesn’t even think twice about it. I think it’s that unique stuff, his personality that appeals to people inside this very rough exterior. His eyes were very kind, you could tell.”

One sign had taken a more wise approach, with “Don’t take life too seriously, nobody gets out alive anyway.”

Though Pearce admired many attributes that made Phil unique, she was especially fond of his demeanor.

“I thought of his eyes, his kindness. I think that’s what attracted me to him in the first place, and that he loved me.”

Some signs encouraged passersby to keep a positive attitude, regardless of how hard life can be, the sign read, “Life is tough but so are you.”

Since his time as a student at NMU, Phil kept involved with the campus and helped his wife and her students in Northern’s culinary program by volunteering his time by offering his supplies and skills for students to utilize.
“He helped in any way in our program. He had resources that would be available whenever we needed him: his time, his trucks, his stuff that he had. He would always come in here, he’d come and help,” she said. “He loved Northern. He loved the small town feel.”

Some signs were sure to recognize national holidays, one sign reading, “International Tool Day, celebrate by not being one.”

In the weeks since Phil’s passing, many comments and well wishes have poured in on the “Phil’s 550 Store” Facebook page, and community members have also sent kind messages to Pearce to show their sympathy and share memories of her husband.

“Just remember him fondly,” she said as her wish. “I think people do, judging from all the cards. He’s left a lot of good impressions on the world,” Pearce said. “If I could live my life like Phil did, I think I’d feel good about that. That’s the right thing.”

“As I think of Phil, it stirs up so many fond memories of our youth on East Michigan Street. Freeze tag, touch football, gray wolf, kick the can in the vacant lot, badminton tournaments at #9, exploring the point, body surfing, our neighborhood club house and fort in the garage (old barn/garage) at 425 E. Michigan, spear fishing off of the Point and at Gasser’s Point, sailing to Munising with the boys on the “Sea Fever” when we were in our early teens. Ski racing in high school, I can recall so many things.

I am so grateful to have had such a fun guy to grow up with. Phil will be greatly missed. He was a real trooper and even being gone from Marquette for 40 years Phil was always Phil and ready to help anyone. I send my love and regards to you and all the Pearce’s.

“Where to start with this bird. OH on rocks out front or downstairs in the basement on Ohio. Doing what kids would do all day long.What times we would have”

“Always Phil, always there, though you never knew exactly where, or what he might be up to, you always knew it would be fun. Whatever way it went, whatever happened, always Phil would have that perspective to put it into context. Always taking the good and the bad and making it the same, having the same import and insignificance. Always Phil… still Phil…still a big hole in my heart, our world is diminished now by his passing. Still Phil brings joy for our luck to have walked with him, to have shared the trail so vaguely marked, unutterably filled with fire and ice.”

“If anyone brought life and color to the UP, it was Phil Pearce! Such an endearing icon and a friend to so many! Knowing how he touched our family and friends, it’s hard to imagine just how far his reach went but we know it was wide! Our sincerest sympathies go to Deb, Mason and Phil’s close family and friends. He’s a hard man to lose but he made such a mark during his time here that he will never be forgotten.”

Some signs that caught attention:

“Never do anything you don’t want to explain to paramedics”

“Don’t take life too seriously, nobody gets out alive anyway”

“Be weird”

“Maybe if you stop here, people would like you more”

“If ya tell the truth, ya don’t have to remember anything”