George Phillips was many things. A bank owner, a helping hand in founding the Monticello hospital, a member on many boards, and a city council member, to name a few.
But, to some of those who knew him best, he was one thing above all else.
Phillips, who passed away in early September at the age of 95, was simply a good, kind person.
Dale Lungwitz, his longtime business partner, could attest to that as well as anyone, as the pair got to know each other quite well.
In December of 1949, Phillips married Dale’s sister, Carolyn. Five years later, George and Dale started working at the Wright County State Bank in Monticello, which had been started by the Lungwitz family.
When Dale’s father suffered a heart attack in 1956, Dale and George took over the bank and spent 36 years working as partners before eventually selling to Marquette Bank in 1992.
In 1959, Lungwitz and Phillips moved the bank to Hwy. 25 and River St., where it was a staple of downtown Monticello.
Working together for all of those years, and being brothers-in-law all the while, Lungwitz said the two rarely tired of each other.
“We got along really well,” he said, adding that they made themselves a deal early on about settling disputes. “We often disagreed - if we had a problem, we would sit down and talk about it and figure it out every night before we went home.”
Shelly Johnson, past Monticello schools superintendent and current hospital district board chairman, got to know both Lungwitz and Phillips well shortly after he moved to Monticello in 1967.
Fresh off accepting a principal position, and still funding his graduate degree, Johnson was in the market for a house in Monticello but needed a loan.
That brought him to Wright County State Bank.
“They both were absolutely fantastic,” said Johnson. “Professional and welcoming.”
Johnson would grow close with Phillips over the years, due to many things, including their involvement with the Monticello hospital.
“George was so instrumental in bringing that about here in the community,” said Johnson. The two also interacted through the school district’s relationship with the bank, as well as through their relationship in Monticello Rotary, which Phillips was a member of for more than 30 years.
“He was just a wonderful all-around individual, who always had the best interests of Monticello in mind,” said Johnson.
At the bank, Phillips handled investments and was chairman of the board, while Lungwitz mostly took care of the loan department.
It suited their interests and their abilities. Even in his later years, Phillips remained an avid reader of all things business.
“I would always make sure to read the business section of the Minneapolis paper (before visiting), because I knew he was going to ask me something in there,” said Lungwitz.
Johnson and Lungwitz both remember Phillips as a pillar of the Monticello community, and a bright, dedicated businessman. But even more so, they remember him as the kind of friend that everybody wants in their life.
“He was as good of a friend as I had,” said Lungwitz. “A nicer man, I couldn’t imagine.”
“He turned out to be, right up to the end, a really good friend,” said Johnson. “I’m so humbly grateful that I had the honor of knowing him for all of those years.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com