A column from C.K. to T.P.

Published 12:00 pm Monday, May 9, 2016

landed my first job as a graphic designer at The Oxford EAGLE only two months after graduation. I suffered from a bit of social anxiety, so I kept quiet in my corner most of the time, wielding my mouse with trembling hands.

The only thing keeping me from total self-isolation was the welcoming spirit of Tim Phillips.

Tim never passed me by without some kind of greeting. Sometimes, it would just be a simple “hello,” but other times, he would let loose some sort of weird noise so shocking that I would jump and hit the wall. This served both to entertain him and to crack my shell a little.

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When I decided to leave after only five months because I couldn’t take the stress of the job, Tim came and knelt at my desk. He looked at me sympathetically and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to just work part-time?” I didn’t, but I deeply appreciated his concern and care for me. Four years later when I returned to the job, Tim welcomed me as if I’d never left.

He gave me my first and only nickname. At the time, Cathy Herren worked there, and my maiden name was Kathy Conaway. Workshopping ways to distinguish between us, he said aloud, “Cathy with a ‘C,’ Kathy with a ‘K.’ You’re K.C., C.K.” Then, a light came into his eyes, and he yelled, “C.K.! I’m gonna call you C.K.” For some reason, it made perfect sense to him. I still struggle to explain it to new hires today. That happened in 2005. My co-workers followed his lead, and 11 years later, I’m still C.K.

Tim often buys pizza for the office when we have extremely busy days or early deadlines. He arranges for amazing catered spreads at Thanksgiving and Christmas. He rewards his employees for hard work and wouldn’t think of letting us miss a meal because we are too busy to leave for lunch.

Whenever he finds himself in need of artwork, he commissions me to do the painting. With all the talented artists we have in Oxford, I feel honored to be chosen. Leave it to Tim to reach into the quiet darkness of a hidden gift, pull out a painting and hang it on the wall!

Since 2001, I have watched him span the gamut between hilarity and heroism. He never fails to make all of us laugh, and he never refrains from helping any one of us who is in need. I’ve watched him get on down to “Uptown Funk” at a wedding, and I’ve had him offer to help me bury my beloved dog when he died of cancer.

The EAGLE will never be the same without you, Tim. Your departure is truly our loss, but we wish you the best that the future has to offer. If a man is ever to be rewarded in this life with the measure he has given, then your cup will surely overflow.

Kathy Wile is a graphics designer at The Oxford EAGLE. Contact her at kathy.wile@oxfordeagle.com.