Philip Reinertsen, 89

Dr. Philip James Reinertsen, a resident of Wilton for almost 40 years, passed away peacefully Monday, October 7th. He was 89 years old.

Phil and his late wife Martha Reinertsen were very active Wilton volunteers from the time they moved to the town in 1970. Phil’s community service included thirty years on the Wilton Town Retirement Board, and Board roles, including terms as President, for the Wilton Library, United Way of Wilton, Wilton High School PTA, Saugatuck Valley Audubon Society, and Wilton Kiwanis. He also served as a Scoutmaster and on the Wilton High School Financial Aid Committee. One year he served as Grand Marshal of the Wilton Memorial Day parade. Phil moved to Bath, Maine, a few years ago to be closer to family.

Phil’s life was one of service to his family, community and country. He was famously cheerful, sociable, optimistic and pleasant. He was grateful for his life, and appreciative of small things every day.

Phil was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1924, to Peter Amos and Mabel Carlson Reinertsen. His ancestors on both sides of the family emigrated from Norway. One grandfather was a Lutheran minister, traveling to small new settlements in the Dakota territories, and the other grandfather started a general store to serve farmers in Iowa. Phil excelled in school and graduated from Hyde Park High School. At one time he played in three different basketball leagues in Chicago, and was high scorer in one of them. He was also very active in the Boy Scouts, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.  Many years later, he was Scoutmaster for his son’s troop in Wilton.

On his 18th birthday, during World War II, Phil signed up to join the Navy. He was sent to officers’ training school at Dartmouth College, from which he later graduated after the war (class of ’46). During the war, he served as a lieutenant junior grade, navigation and gunnery officer, on an LST (Landing Ship, Tank) in the Pacific.  He was involved in many landings on islands, where he would at times be one of the first people on shore, signaling to tank operators the path they could take over the crest of the beach.

In the summer of 1945, with his ship scheduled for long-overdue repairs in California before the final push of the war, he communicated with his fiancée, Martha Ruth Smalley, with whom he had gone to high school and who had just graduated from Beloit College. She took a train to meet him and they were married on July 14th in San Francisco. They were happily married for fifty years until her death in 1996.

After the war and completing his degree at Dartmouth College, Phil and Martie decided on an adventure and traveled to Sweden where Phil did post-graduate studies in economics at the University of Stockholm. He then took a post with the Marshall Plan for European recovery at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm. While in Sweden, they made many friends, learned Swedish, met Eleanor Roosevelt at an Embassy reception, and traveled around Europe on a tandem bicycle. Phil was offered a promising future in the diplomatic corps, but he and his wife wanted to return to the United States and raise a family.

Back in Chicago, Phil completed a Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Chicago while working several jobs. The couple’s children, Laura, Barbara and James were born in Chicago and Evanston. The family then moved to West Hartford, Connecticut, and then to Wilton, Connecticut, where Phil lived from 1970 to 2009. He worked as a senior economist at IBM Corporate Headquarters in Armonk, New York. Among other responsibilities, he studied energy markets and Latin American economies, and he took several business trips to South America and Mexico.

Phil and Martie loved birdwatching, both in their backyard and in trips around their state, the Eastern shore, Nebraska, Scotland, and Alaska. Phil was a very active father, always putting his family and children first. He and his wife both sang and read to their young children, and later would play board and card games with them for hours at a stretch. Even after his children were grown, everyone would congregate for holidays and whenever they could. For 42 years the growing family would go on summer vacation together to their well-loved Nantucket Island. One year Phil took his grandson on a mail-boat trip around the fjords and up the coast to the far north of Norway.

Phil is survived by his children, Laura Ruth Meagher and her husband Thomas Meagher of Dairsie, Scotland; Barbara Lee Reinertsen and her husband Terry Nordmann of Bath, Maine; and James Eric Reinertsen and his wife Helen Michael, of Bethesda, Maryland; and by his beloved grandchildren, Daniel Robert Meagher and his wife Michelle Chowdhury Meagher, Jessica Ruth Meagher, Jane Elizabeth Nordmann, and Kai Owen Michael Reinertsen. He is also survived by his brother, John Reinertsen, and numerous nieces, nephews, and their children.

The family wishes to express their gratitude for their parents’ many friends, colleagues, and fellow volunteers in Wilton.

Condolences may be made online at Charitable contributions in Phil’s memory can be made to the Wilton Library, 137 Old Ridgefield Road, Wilton, Connecticut.