BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
“Oh, the places you’ll go”, this phrase was so cleverly coined in Dr. Seuss’s book. Life does seem to take people places they never would have expected, on journeys that make their life worth living. Phil Feerance is a man well traveled. Military and work has allowed him to experience new places and new faces, with the newest being Mena.
Phil grew up in Pennsylvania, one of seven boys and eight kids total. He loved being outside playing in his childhood, “Often my mom couldn’t find me, I would be off by myself playing in the woods,” Phil recalls laughing. After high school, he worked at a foundry on the floor before becoming a cost accountant. While continuing to work full-time, he worked his way through college, before being drafted in the Army. “At that time they drafted by the lottery system and I got picked so I went and served.” Phil received leadership opportunities in the military, earning himself the opportunity to be 1st Lieutenant Platoon Leader. He explains that he enjoyed his position because you had to get things done, but that it was demanding, “I was 22 years old and was responsible each day for the lives and actions of other men. It led to real quick growth.” His time in the military, leading men each day and accomplishing tasks, would prepare Phil for his next step in life.
Currently, Phil serves as a Senior Buyer for a traction product at Nidec. Before coming to Mena, he and his wife of 46 years, Kathleen, were living in Conway. “Our daughter was going to school in Conway and my job in Vicksburg was changing and so we decided to move there.” Phil has spent most of his professional career in the automotive industry before working at Nidec. His work led their family to many different states including Maryland, Tennessee, and Mississippi. “I really enjoyed the work that I did because you were constantly moving. If things were to get done then you had to constantly be working. I like having a game plan and accomplishing it.” Phil has quite the experience in the automotive industry, serving as a commodity manager in Tennessee before he earned the opportunity to help open a facility in Vicksburg, Mississippi. “I worked in Materials Management there, which included shipping and receiving, customer service, purchasing, and logistics. I started all those departments from scratch.” Despite the demanding needs of the automotive industry, Phil excelled in the industry, taking things in full stride. “It was demanding, but it was something I enjoyed. If you don’t do your part, the whole thing doesn’t work. That’s a lot of pressure, but I enjoyed it.”
Phil’s latest place to put down roots has been Mena, a place that he and Kathleen enjoy a lot. “I feel like I’m at home. The mountains here are beautiful, it reminds me of being back home where I grew up.” Although he is proud of his work at Nidec, Phil has a real passion for serving the community with the Knights of Columbus. “Many people are unsure of what the Knights are or what we stand for, but it is such a good organization that is meeting many needs. I love what we are doing.” The Knights were formed in 1882 due to the faithful efforts of Father Michael McGivney, assistant pastor of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut. “The Knights were formed to serve the needs of widows and orphans in the community and the parish. It started with Father McGivney and other men sitting in a room passing around a hat to take up donations to take care of those that couldn’t take care of themselves,” explains Phil.
The Knights are playing an important role in meeting the needs of the communities they serve. This role is something that Phil, as Grand Knight of the local council, takes seriously with great passion. “I have not been in Mena but five years, but I wanted to continue to be more closely tied with the people and needs of this community. That is why the Knights and myself are here.” The Knights serve with four principles in mind: Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism. Each of these components of their service can be seen throughout their community service and outreach. “As a Knight, I believe that these four precepts fall into everyday life. In general, if everyone lived out these ideals then our world would be a better place.”
Members of the Knights have been able to help meet needs and effect change, not just locally, but world wide as well. “We have helped with the Veteran’s Administration, and currently we have been raising funds for the Christian Syrian refugees. Our influence isn’t just local, but is world wide.”
Although the Knights have a far reaching effect in the world, each local council has different ways that they can reach out to their community. Phil is excited about the service opportunities they have here in Mena. “One of the ways we live out our principle of charity is loving our neighbors around us, this includes our community as a whole,” explains Phil. Their signature fundraiser in the local community is their annual Tootsie Roll Drive, a fundraiser that benefits PCDC and their efforts for the special Olympics. Along with their support of PCDC, the Knights are supporting many other efforts in Mena that support the welfare of the community. Phil is thankful for the opportunity they have to meet real tangible needs for the people here, “Mena is my home and the people are great here. I want to be a part of helping make it a great place to live.”
The service and thoughtfulness of people like Phil are what makes Mena such a great place to live. “I always ask the other Knights, ‘What is the most charitable thing you have done recently?’” This question and attitude should certainly prompt anybody to live a life with a more fuller purpose.