Your Subtitle text
About Phil
A man of many eccentricities, Phil Guza is fondly remembered by those who knew him best. Born and raised in northeast Philadelphia, Phil attended Abraham Lincoln High School where he was self motivated and driven to discover one of his life interests: mathematics. He was able to move on to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Lehigh University and then a doctorate in math at Princeton University.  After teaching mathematics at Rutgers University for several years, he changed careers to the insurance business where could still apply his mathematics interest and talent; he remained in that industry for almost three decades. His other pastimes included bowling (as the captain of his company bowling team), golf (despite the fact that he really wasn’t very good at it), and crabbing along the Shrewsbury River on the Jersey Shore- especially with his two sons. He enjoyed intellectual pursuits, including chess and scrabble, and was a member of MENSA. Until his death at age 54, Phil lived in Sea Bright, NJ and commuted to New York as an insurance executive at Aon Risk Services on the 105th floor of World Trade Center Tower Two. On the morning of September 11th Phil left a voice mail message for his son while looking down on 1 World Trade Center, reassuring his family that he’s okay and the incident was at the other tower before he promptly returned to his meticulous work where he was last seen in his office. Phil’s legacy lives on through his two sons, Tom and Pete, who established this Memorial Scholarship in his honor to help more young people achieve their dreams of moving up in the world as their father did.

Eulogy: Thoughts of Phil


Last night, several family members sat together, reminiscing about Phil, and we agreed to write this collective eulogy. We started with listing some adjectives that describe Phil: eccentric, patient, impatient, compassionate, intolerant, … the list goes on, but clearly Phil was a man of contradictions. We’ll share a few anecdotes that illustrate them.

Phil was one of the most brilliant people we’ve ever known, with mathematics and business abilities most anyone would be envious of. However, this man who earned his PhD with a dissertation entitled “Finite Groups having fixed-point-free automorphism of prime order” was strangely resistant to making use of new technologies. For example, microwaves and cell phones fall into the category of new and not worth using. Here’s a quote that pretty much sums up his attitude: “Why should I use Windows when I can do everything I need in DOS?”

Phil got a lot of satisfaction from avoiding Parkway tolls by taking Route 9. However, he would not bother to file a dental insurance claim that would provide hundreds of dollars in reimbursement.

Phil took pride in being meticulous about his recordkeeping. His personal filing system was extraordinary…we even found a file for ‘limericks’. However, this fastidiousness did not extend to general housekeeping. Phil’s apartment could best be described as a typical bachelor pad, complete with freezer frost so thick it was hard to squeeze in the ice cream. Our favorite, however, was the fact that he kept his moped in the living room, right next to the crab traps.

Phil got immense satisfaction out of staying in cheap motels. He had a collection of brochures and catalogs from Motel 6 and worse. We have to admit that when cleaning out the apartment, none of us was fighting for the motel booklets. In fact, Tom threw them out and later commented that if his dad somehow makes it out of this World Trade Center thing, he’s gonna be really pissed [can we say that in church?]. By the way, Phil was really excited about staying at the northernmost Super 8 in the world (located in central Alaska).

Phil hated cats. Unfortunately almost everybody else in the family loves them (even though some of us share his allergy). We can’t say this was one of the areas he showed too much tolerance.

Speaking of allergies, Phil often claimed to have an allergy to (quote) ‘your bullshit.’ This quote was particularly applicable in work situations…maybe some of us will want to adopt it.

This description of Phil wouldn’t be complete without mentioning his so-called diet. Burritos, potato chips (pronounced chayda chips), Ragu spaghetti sauce, pickled herring, canned mackerel, Tabasco sauce (on everything), and, of course, crabs. He also loved Italian food. When he was 40, he said he wanted to be Italian when he grew up.

Phil’s dress motif was a cross between a Wall Street businessman and an Arkansas pig farmer. When we were filling out the missing person’s report with the NYPD, it was easy for us to provide an accurate description of what he was wearing, because he wore the same thing every day: dark pants, black shoes, and, most notably, huge suspenders and no belt. He wore the same huge suspenders with his dungarees (DON’T call them jeans), but with a baseball cap.

Phil was unpredictable in many ways, and utterly predictable in others. Who would imagine that this typically cerebral person would take off chasing a ground hog while on a family vacation? Then again, he was predictable in his tenaciousness…okay, let’s call it what it is: stubbornness. Among Phil’s belongings we found a shirt that illustrates one of Phil’s long-time and much heard complaints: ‘Once I was a millionaire… then my mom threw my baseball cards away.’

Phil didn’t believe in wasting time. If he arrived for a train or plane more than 5 minutes before the gate closed, he said he had wasted 3 minutes. On the other hand, he would drive a hundred miles to visit some small town museum. When on a business trip to northern California, he would take a 400-mile side trip (by car) to visit his family in San Diego. Phil was also an incredibly patient teacher, whether he was teaching mathematics or teaching golf. Okay, he wasn’t the greatest golfer, but he used to be even worse and was really encouraging to novices (even his ex-wife). Actually, one of the really likeable things about Phil is that he could enjoy sports that he wasn’t good at. Golf, ice hockey, and bowling are examples. Come to think about it, just about all his sports were good examples. He wasn’t athletically talented.

One area where Phil was absolutely consistent was his love for his boys. Over the past few weeks, Marcia was going through the boxes of photos to assemble some favorites for the montage you each have. She was absolutely struck by the fact that picture after picture revealed Phil’s pride and love for the boys. Bob confirmed that his emails reflected the same sentiment.

Marcia’s and Phil’s lives were intertwined for over 30 years. They shared many memories, some beautiful and some painful. Most painful, of course, was the death of their oldest son Dave. Despite the fact that Phil and Marcia had been divorced for several years before the tragic event, they recognized and respected each other’s indescribable grief and easily came to agreement on decisions that needed to be made. Sometimes we’re told that out of tragedy we would receive gifts…this can be a hard concept to accept. However, Marcia found it to be true. While Phil and Marcia always loved their boys, they learned to savor every moment with them, recognizing that life is more tenuous than one could ever imagine. Pete tells the story of how it brought him and Tom closer, and many wonderful people have entered and remained in their lives.

Phil’s continued involvement with the boys couldn’t have happened as smoothly without the support of John, and all members of the Guza family are deeply appreciative of John’s patience and good humor.

When we asked Tom and Pete what was their favorite thing about their dad, they had a quick answer: his hugs. First thing and last thing upon meeting was a big hug. This is one part of Phil we can all share with each other.

cache/wst.opf.333566.xml
Web Hosting Companies