Philip Steven Girmant – February 14, 1935 – November 7, 2018
Philip Steven Girmant was born in Rochester, NY, on Valentine’s Day in 1935, to Anthony Josephus Girmantas and Marie Imogene Rossiter. His father, Tony, was born in Lithuania and came to New York as a small boy.
In the 1930s, Tony served in the U.S. Army. Philip’s mother was born in New York in 1895. Philip was amazed his maternal grandfather, Alfred Rossiter, who was born in 1844, was 17 years old when the Civil War broke out.
Phil had two sisters and a brother: Helen Saisselin, 20 years his senior; Franklin Wixson, 18 years his senior; and Georgiana Crowell, 14 years his senior. Philip lived on California Road and attended District No. 12 School, a one-room school house with one teacher educating the students from first to eighth grades in Southwest Oswego.
Living in the country, Phil had his own horse (Duke), his own dog (Paul), his own rabbit, along with the family cats, ducks, and several horses. And yes, outdoor plumbing was the norm. Visiting the outhouse in the winter months was cold.
Phil was 12 years old when his mother passed away, and he went to live with his sister, Georgie, and her husband and their 8-year-old son. They had a Christmas tree farm on 50 acres on California Road. He attended the nearby Baptist Church on Sundays and was baptized as a teenager in Lake Ontario. He enjoyed being a Boy Scout.
Upon graduating from Oswego High School, Phil received a scholarship to State University of New York, Agricultural and Technical Institute at Morrisville where he met the love of his life, Janet Clark, at the college’s gun range.
He played intramural basketball and wrestling, and was on the rifle and pistol team and received his A.A.S. Degree in Food Technology. He had continuous part-time employment during high school and college with experience in farming, roofing, carpentry, masonry, bakery, retail grocery, canning processing, and automobile maintenance. After Philip and Janet’s college graduations, Philip married Janet Clark at the First Baptist Church on Church Street in her home town of Cortland, New York.
The newlyweds moved to Athens, Georgia, where Phil transferred to the University of Georgia. He worked two jobs while attending college full-time. One was at Benson’s Bakery, when a loaf of bread was 20 cents. Phil and Jan welcomed their first born daughter, Karen, in the land of Dixie. The Yankees had given birth to a Rebel in Athens, Georgia! Phil called Karen his “Georgia Peach.” In 1958, Philip graduated with a B.S. degree in Food Technology from UGA.
Phil’s first job out of college was as a retail salesman with Libby McNeil and Libby in Syracuse, NY.
Philip began his chocolate career with The Nestle Company in Fulton, NY. Before he was transferred to Nestles in Salinas, Calif., Philip and Janet welcomed their first son, Steven, in Oswego, NY. Steven was proudly named after his Dad. The family had to wait until baby Steven was 6 weeks old to fly on the airplane with them across the United States to the “Golden State.”
Philip and Janet welcomed their second son, Brian, who was born in Salinas two years later. In January 1965, Brian passed away suddenly due to bacterial meningitis from the Fort Ord breakout at that time.
In 1966, Philip and Janet purchased their first home and also their first color television.
They welcomed their second daughter, Brenda Phyllis, who was was born in Salinas, and the whole family was elated. Phil wanted her named after him so Phyllis was the closest namesake.
In 1971, the Girmant family moved to Fresno, where Philip worked for David and Sons as their Technical Manager. Phil developed a new product called “Snack’N Wheat” which was distributed in the Mid-West. Before the final product went to the market test, his family was the unofficial testers!
Anxious to return to chocolate manufacturing , Philip became the Plant Manager at Ghirardelli Chocolate in San Leandro, Calif., in 1976, and moved the family to Castro Valley, leaving Karen in Fresno as she was engaged.
Several years later, Phil was challenged to start a new Hawaiian Host plant from scratch in Gardena, Calif., to export the product around the world. It was a success. However, after living in Southern California, his desire was to return to the Bay Area. He was lured by an offer to be Manager of Manufacturing for Stagi & Scriven Farms in Stockton, Calif., so he returned to sunflower seeds processing from 1980 to 1988 and did the daily 2-hour round trip commute to work.
In 1982, Phil and Jan welcomed their first grandson, James. Interestingly, James and his Grandpa ended up sharing the same “Bulldogs” mascot from their respective alma maters, University of Georgia and California State University, Fresno.
Chocolate enticed him back to be Plant Manager at The Candy Jar in San Francisco where they manufactured truffles. While at work in the city on October 17, Phil experienced the 1989 San Francisco-Oakland earthquake of 6.9 which was a frightening event.
Phil and Jan welcomed their second grandson, Shane, in 1991, and they helped raise Shane in their household. Earlier this year, Shane came to live with Phil and Jan in YLP (to watch over his Grandpa and Grandma).
Phil’s desire to be his own boss led him to open Phil’s Lube Stop in Hayward, Calif., where he enjoyed being a sole proprietor. However, chocolate knocked on his door again, and Phil worked for Knudsen Nut & Candy Factory in Hayward, Calif., running the molding machine that was making 140 pieces of chocolate cable cars per minute. And that is where he ended his chocolate career 20 years ago.
Phil’s life-long passion for firearms and target shooting led him to the Castro Valley Gun Shop for his perfect “after retirement” job where he worked for over 10 years.
He was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. Phil faithfully attended HIS Church in Coarsegold and left early with Jan every Sunday morning for anticipation of the sermon by Pastor Cody.
Phil was gifted with many talents including masonry, woodworking, and automobile mechanics. He did all the brick work in the outside yards at his first house in Salinas. He built the backyard deck with help from Steven at his Castro Valley house for a view of the Bay. He played his guitar and harmonica by ear with no lessons.
He had many interests and passions throughout his life, including hiking, music, historical reading, coin collecting, photography, motorcycles, dancing (especially the Polka), and traveling. His favorite song was “Dancing in the Dark.” Phil enjoyed riding his different motorcycles. He took his young family to British Columbia, soon after moving to California. Some of his adventurous trips included: hiking to the top of Mount Whitney with his son, Steven; hiking with his family from the top of Glacier Point in Yosemite down to the Valley floor in 8 hours with Brenda on his shoulders the majority of the time as she was only 2 ½; exploring the Superstition Mountains in Arizona by hiking and horseback with his friend, Bill Combs; venturing with his family to the Pinnacles, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, the Redwoods, and his favorite, Death Valley, which he visited many times.
Phil and Jan visited Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon in Arizona, as well as Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park in Utah. He traveled all over the United States by auto, motorcycle, RV, travel trailer, plane, ship, and even using his thumb while hitchhiking during his early college years. In the RV, he took Jan and Shane across the States from CA to NY, visiting Mount Rushmore and falling in love with the mountain monument, Crazy Horse Memorial, which is still under construction in South Dakota. Phil also went on a cruise to Alaska with Jan and Shane.
Animals were a part of his life from an early age. His former dogs were: Holchester, the boxer; Shamrock, his super-smart one; and Bleu, his buddy. He used to have a Bearded Dragon he carried on his shoulder named Gorky. His former cat he shared with Jan was Blackfoot who lived to be 22 years old. He and Jan also had Bootsie and Blackie to keep them company in YLP but they were taken by Coyotes. Phil left behind 2 orange tabbies, Pumpkin and Tiger. He and Jan cared for Miss Cockles, a Lionhead rabbit, that belonged to his deceased daughter, Brenda. Miss Cockles just died on November 10, 3 days after Phil. His favorite wild animal was the beautiful wolf.
Phil was a know-it-all on many subjects, he was very technical and people oriented. Being an animal lover, it was a treat to see the many deer travel his property every day. In fact, he saw a small Bobcat at his patio window the day he passed away. He enjoyed watching movies on TV, and his latest rerun he liked was Walker, Texas Ranger. Apple pie was his favorite dessert. He was an original prankster, was proud of his Lithuanian heritage, devotedly wore his “wolf” t-shirts throughout the week, enjoyed hearing about the football scores of his Georgia Bulldogs, loved listening to Jan play the piano for him, and found it peaceful living in the beautiful Coarsegold foothills of Central California where Yosemite was practically his backyard.
Phil was preceded in death by his youngest son, Brian Scott Girmant, and his youngest daughter, Brenda Phyllis Girmant Smith. Phil is survived by his beloved wife of 62 years, Janet Clark Girmant of Coarsegold, Calif.; his daughter, Karen Lasek (and her husband, Jim) of Clovis, Calif.; his son, Steven Girmant (and his wife, Nancy) of Topanga, Calif.; his two grandsons, James Lasek (and his fiancé, Lindsay Winter) of Clovis, Calif., and Shane Smith of Coarsegold, Calif.; his great granddaughter, Lilliana Lasek of Clovis, Calif.; his nephew, Paul Saisselin, Jr. of Massachusetts and Florida; and his sister-in-law, Evelyn Monroe of Brewerton, NY, and nieces and nephews in New York, Maine and Alabama.
After a nice day in Oakhurst running errands and having lunch with his wife, Phil passed away unexpectedly on November 7, 2018 around 5:30 p.m. While driving down his driveway to get the mail, Phil’s truck went off an embankment and hit an oak tree at the bottom of the meadow. He had written his nephew’s friend in Florida and was eagerly awaiting a response. It was officially confirmed Philip had no medical issues so it remains a mystery why his truck left the driveway.
A Celebration of Phil’s Life will be held at Yosemite Lakes Community Church located at 43840 Patrick Avenue in Coarsegold on Monday, November 19, 2018, at 11 a.m. A lunch reception will follow.
Remembrances may be made to the Eastern Madera County SPCA, P.O. Box 1314, Oakhurst, CA, 93644.