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1921 Philip 2023

Philip Woodbury George

September 14, 1921 — February 12, 2023

Philip Woodbury George, beloved husband, dad, papa & great grand-papa, as well as respected stockman & proud WW II veteran, passed away peacefully & ascended into eternal life, while in the presence of family, on Sunday morning, February 12, 2023, at the age of 101. He was welcomed at the Gates of Heaven, by his parents & three siblings, as well as many cousins, extended family & friends.

Philip was born on September, 14, 1921, in the family home where he grew up, on Sunbyrne Farm, located along the county line road between Osage & Coffey Counties, east of Lebo. He was the second eldest of four children born to Frank Jackson George & Harriet Edith George (nee Woodbury), which included older brother, Frank Jackson, Jr, younger brother, Howard Douglas & younger sister Eleanor Louise.

Except for a brief time when the family lived in Garden City, KS, where his father worked as a receiver, settling the accounts of insolvent banks in Southwest Kansas during the Depression, Philip grew up on the family ranch & attended the one-room Elmwood country school. During his youth, Phil & his siblings were all active in 4-H, as well as being fully engaged in all aspects of the family livestock operation. After graduation from Lebo High School in 1939, Phil enrolled at Kansas State College of Agriculture & Applied Science (now, Kansas State University) & was a student there for two years during the early portion of World War II.

Phil had never seen & didn’t know anything about the sea, but in late August, 1942, just before his Junior year in college & just before the report date listed on the draft notice he’d received, he reported early & enlisted in the U.S. Navy. His decision to join the Navy was in part, because he didn’t think he wanted to be a “foot soldier” & in part, out of respect for & to honor his close friend & high school classmate, Harold “Skinny” Spatz, who had joined the Army Air Corps right after high school, and had volunteered for Doolittle’s Raid on Tokyo, which resulted in him being captured, tortured & ultimately executed, after his plane crash landed in occupied China.

During World War II, Phil served in the Pacific Theatre, where his first assignment was on the air craft carrier USS Intrepid. After the Intrepid was torpedoed at Truk Lagoon & returned to port for repairs, Phil was assigned to Torpedo Squadron 17 on the air craft carrier USS Hornet, where he was the gunner, in a three man crew (with the pilot & radioman), on a Grumman TBF Avenger, torpedo bomber. During WWII, Phil was involved in multiple significant battles at Marshall Islands, Truk Lagoon, Iwo Jima & Okinawa, which included sinking the Japanese Battleship Yamato. Phil flew over 25 missions, including missions in early 1945, that were the first flights to return to targets over mainland Japan, after the Doolittle Raid in April of 1942. As a result of his combat service, Phil earned numerous awards, including the Air Medal, Gold Star, Distinguished Flying Cross & Presidential Unit Citation.

After the end of WWII, Phil returned to Kansas State, where he competed on the livestock judging team. Phil received his degree in Animal Husbandry from Kansas State in May of 1947, then returned to the family ranching operation near Lebo.

It was during this post-war return to Kansas State that Phil met Julia Frances Gardner, a young coed whose family owned a livestock operation south of Hartford, KS, in south Lyon County. Phil & Julia were married at her parent’s home on June 12, 1949, just a month after her graduation from Kansas State, with a degree in Home Economics.

Before their wedding, Phil purchased the Elmwood school building, the one-room school house where he’d attended elementary school, then moved a mile up the road to a spot near the house where he’d grown up & converted it into a residence. That converted one-room school house became the home where they forged an abiding partnership, centered around faith, family & operating the ranch, a partnership that lasted the next 73+ years. That home was where they raised their family, including three sons, Jay Gardner, Philip Dana & Vern Woodbury, and daughter, Frances Ann.

Phil devoted his life to his family, to the family ranch & to the community. He was a 4-H leader, a Sunday School teacher & served the community in a wide variety of volunteer leadership positions, as a board or committee member over the years. He was a lifetime member of the Lebo United Methodist Church, a member & later leader of the Blue Ribbon 4-H Club. He was a member of the Key West Grange, the Flint Hills Hereford Association, the Coffey County Democrats, and was an especially proud member of American Legion Post #323. Following his return from WWII and continuing until his death, Philip had the honor of carrying the United States flag for the Lebo American Legion color guard, including at Lebo’s annual Memorial Day ceremony and also at the 4th of July Parade, where he rode horseback.

As a rancher & stockman, Phil devoted his life to raising quality cattle & quarter horses, and to being a good steward of the native prairie grass pastureland entrusted to him. An expert horseman, he worked cattle with a good horse & a little patience, and he remained actively engaged in the day to day operation of the ranch up until just the last couple of years. Even in recent years, it wasn’t uncommon to see him sitting straight up in the saddle as he rode his horse to check pastures or move cattle, almost daily.

Phil was an avid baseball fan & grew up following the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Monarchs, and also the Kansas City A’s. He never missed a Royals game on the radio & he celebrated his 100th birthday by attending a Royals game as a guest of his Wingert cousins.

In later years, Phil became engaged in a role as a local historian, speaking at schools, sharing stories & information with younger generations about their ancestors, as well as, about his experience during World War II. He felt a strong responsibility to recognize the sacrifice of all those who had served our country & he embraced the opportunity to share their stories with future generations.

Philip was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Jackson & sister-in-law Margie, as well as their daughters Patricia Koons & Cynthia Simmons, his brother Doug & sister-in-law Roselyn, his sister Eleanor & brother-in-law Bob Pasley, his father & mother-in-law, Samuel Ray & Emilie June Gardner, sister-in-law, Annie Cunningham & sister-in-law, Virginia Gardner. He is survived by his wife, Julia, son Jay, Lebo, KS, son Phil & wife Lynna, Winslow, AZ, son Vern & wife Eileen, Denver, CO, daughter Frances Forbes & husband Chris, Bradford, PA, grandchildren, Tyler George (Jessica), Lebo, KS, Emilie Clarke (Collin), Margaret Gurley, Russell George & Tucker George, all of Denver, CO, Jackson George, Whitefish, MT, Julia George, Mission, KS, Madelaine Kimerle (Joseph), Lawrence, KS, Mitchell Forbes (Ashley), Lincoln, NE & Truman Forbes, Bradford, PA, and great-grandchildren, Samantha & Harper Gurley, and Barrett, Declan & Graham Clarke, as well as brother-in-law Gordon Cunningham, Goshin, IN, brother-in-law, Dan Gardner, Harford, KS, and numerous nieces, nephews & cousins.

Family & friends will be received from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., on Friday, February 24, 2023, at the Lebo United Methodist Church. A memorial service will be held the at 11 a.m., on Saturday, February 25, at the Lebo United Methodist Church, with Pastor Lori Schwilling & Pastor George Pasley officiating. A burial with full military honors will follow, at Lincoln Cemetery. All attendees are invited to share memories and renew acquaintances with a meal afterwards.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions, if desired, may be made to The Benefit of Lebo Youth in c/o Farmers State Bank of Aliceville, P. O. Box 66, Lebo, KS 66856; Lebo American Legion, or a charity of the donor’s choosing.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Philip Woodbury George, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Friday, February 24, 2023

6:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

Lebo United Methodist Church

201 West 4th Street, Lebo, KS 66856

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Saturday, February 25, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

Lebo United Methodist Church

201 West 4th Street, Lebo, KS 66856

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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