Longtime Tri-City community leader Ann Philip died Tuesday morning, about a year after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
The 65-year-old, who ran organizations from the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce to the March of Dimes, faced the neurodegenerative disease with the same optimism and determination that saw her through other challenges, close friends told the Herald.
“She had some tough things happen in life, but she never looked at it like that. She always saw the upside,” said Helen McCoy of Richland. “She gave this community so much. She’s been such a huge part of the Tri-Cities.”
She had some tough things happen in life, but she never looked at it like that. She always saw the upside. She gave this community so much. She’s been such a huge part of the Tri-Cities.
Helen McCoy, friend
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Philip grew up in Iowa, earning a psychology degree at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
In the early ‘70s, she joined American Airlines as a flight attendant, a job that took her around the U.S. and beyond.
The dark-haired beauty also modeled for years, doing print and runway work.
In the Tri-Cities, Philip spent 10 years running what’s now called the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce.
She also worked at Washington State University Tri-Cities’ development coordinator, the division director of March of Dimes and chief development officer of Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.
And she poured herself into charitable work, helping groups from United Way to Desert Sun Guild, which raises money for the Seattle Children’s Hospital.
“She was a very generous person,” said Tom Halazon of Pasco. The two met through Rotary and traveled together to Russia in the late ‘90s on a Rotary trip to help set up a hospice program.
Halazon said Philip’s positivity was a defining quality.
She found a way to keep a smile on her face despite struggles, including being widowed twice and getting the ALS diagnosis.
She raised her grandson, Nathan Suarez, from the time he was a baby because neither of his parents could care for him.
She loved him fiercely.
In April 2015, not long after her diagnosis, Philip told the Herald that she couldn’t afford to dwell on negativity.
The girl was always in for the fun in life. She always saw the good side of things.
Helen McCoy, friend
“I have to stay strong for him,” she said.
Nathan, then a 16-year-old high school sophomore, talked of his love for his Nonnie during that same interview.
“I have to give her a lot of respect for taking me in as a child. Mom couldn’t raise me, so she took me in,” he said. “She sacrificed a lot to take me in. I’m grateful for that.”
I have to give her a lot of respect for taking me in as a child. Mom couldn’t raise me, so she took me in. She sacrificed a lot to take me in. I’m grateful for that.
Nathan Suarez, grandson
As Philip’s health deteriorated, Nathan moved to Iowa to live with relatives.
He’s thriving, and knowing that was a comfort to Philip, McCoy said.
She remembers her friend as a vivacious, fun-loving, caring person — one who left a legacy in the community and touched the lives of many.
“She was the kind of person who, if she was your best friend or if she barely knew you, she would do anything for you. She loved her family, loved her friends and loved to have fun,” McCoy said. “The girl was always in for the fun in life. She always saw the good side of things.”
A celebration of life is planned but the details are not final.