Phillip Corrigan Fons, age 92, passed away June 10, 2014 at home in St. George, Utah. He was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 21, 1922 to Frank and Selma Fons.
He married Evelyn Maxine Woods in Reno, Nevada on November 12, 1963. They joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on November 7, 1964 and their marriage was solemnized in the Los Angeles Temple on November 13, 1965.
Phil grew up in Chicago. His father was killed in a train / auto accident when he was 12 years of age. His mother raised him and his three brothers during the depression years. She was the first woman to be in Real Estate in Chicago and she provided well for her sons.
Phil attended Vanderpool Grade School in the Beverly Hills area of Chicago and graduated from Morgan Park High School where he was an officer in ROTC and graduated with honors. He attended Illinois Tech for two years studying Mechanical Engineering. Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego came looking for promising young engineers and hired Phil to come to San Diego. He received additional training in flight testing engineering of the B-24 Bomber in 1941. He joined the Army Air Corp and worked in instrumentation and sight until a health problem caused a medical discharge.
He served as a Flight Research Engineer on the Ryan F-R1 “Fireball” Navy Turbojet Engine and fighter plane and later the first Navy Turbo Prop Airplane. He did RD testing as a propulsion specialist of the first Turbojet engine after-burner for all of the Navy fighter planes and on Ryan’s Firebird and the first aerial drone.
North American Aviation hired him and recognized his leadership potential and unusual ability and enthusiasm in working with people. They paid for his tuition at UCLA to complete a 4 year program in Industrial relations, leadership training and management development.
He stood at the test console to make the FIRST large liquid propellant rocket motor firing in the free world as a pioneer rocket scientist on January 28, 1950. He also did R & D testing of the Redstone Engine that lifted America’s first astronaut; Alan Shepherd into space. These events ushered in the era of space travel and exploration. He worked closely with several of the German Scientists; such as Werner Von Braun and Walter Reidel.
He spent several years as a Senior Research & Development Engineering Supervisor and worked on the Apollo LEM Lunar Expulsion Module Engine that carried Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong to the first landing on the moon.
Phil made significant engineering contributions on the “SSME”, 3 space shuttle main engines that were located in the aft end of the space shuttle. These were the most powerful reusable liquid propellant rocket engines in the world and in all 135 flights never had a single failure.
Phil and his wife, Evelyn, moved from Woodland Hills, California to St. George, Utah in 1976 where they lived in Bloomington for 27 years before moving into town close to the Temple. They served three full time missions, opening a little branch in Paris, Kentucky in 1980-81 where Phil served as Branch President. It is now a large ward. They served two full time missions in
St. George, Utah and several Stake missions in their wards in Woodland Hills, California and Bloomington. Phil also served as Sunday School President and taught primary for 8 years, which he truly loved.
Phil put on his bio medical research cap and did research on the illnesses that he and his wife had had. He then was asked to share what he had learned by giving classes at the ICL and Community Education.
He is survived by his wife, Evelyn; daughter-in-law, Mi Jong Chang McMillan; grandson Joshua Nunsey; great-grandsons: Rocky, Hunter and Creed; step-great-grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, three brothers, his precious granddaughter and recently his stepson, Jim McMillan, whom he loved dearly.
- Funeral services will be held Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 11 a.m. at the St. George LDS East Stake Center, 449 South 300 East, St. George, Utah.
- A visitation will be on held, prior to services, from 10-10:45 a.m.
- Interment will be in the St. George City Cemetery.
Arrangements are entrusted to Metcalf Mortuary, 435-673‑4221.