City names center for 'a gentleman's gentleman'

Philip T. Glennon, left, talks last week with his neighbor, Howard Jones, at Pitcairn Park in Tega Cay. City leaders have named a new community center in Glennon's honor.
Philip T. Glennon, left, talks last week with his neighbor, Howard Jones, at Pitcairn Park in Tega Cay. City leaders have named a new community center in Glennon's honor.

When Philip T. Glennon grasps his cane and forges up the hill from his home each day, the jaunt overlooks a park he helped preserve.

In fact, almost everywhere Glennon looks, there is a Tega Cay park or recreation facility he helped conceive. He even inspired the jasmine fragrance that wafts across Tega Cay Drive since Hurricane Hugo removed trees from the slopes.

He's 88 and has advocated a larger community center for at least a decade. There's no current building large enough to house the sense of community that personifies Tega Cay.

That is why city fathers last week named the new one under construction The Philip T. Glennon Community Center.

"He's a gentleman's gentleman," said Mayor Bob Runde. "They don't come any better than Phil Glennon."

The new community center, which includes a full kitchen and room for 350 people, is next to the Tega Cay Golf Clubhouse. It's designed for expansion to accommodate 500 people. When both the upstairs and downstairs are completed, it will be 22,000 square feet.

About 130 people filled the current facility to capacity and gave Glennon a standing ovation Wednesday night when one of Tega Cay's many clubs presented him with a plaque "in appreciation for his love and devotion to the residents of Tega Cay and in gratitude of his tireless dedication to preserving The Good Life." The firehouse was packed Friday when members of The Men's Breakfast Club feted him again.

His devotion to Tega Cay and its residents is so great that, when he realized the city's most long-standing residents were aging, he taped 11 1/2 hours of interviews with those who remember the city's origins.

He was named the Lion's Club Citizen of the Year in 2001 and City Volunteer of the Month in February 2004. He was chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee, the city's Beautification Planning Committee and helped found the city's concert series in the park.

"He's a mainstay of our prayer meetings," said Howard Jones, referring to their poker night.

Jones, 83, joins his poker buddy for the morning trek up the hill when he can. Both are World War II veterans.

Jones was in his early 20s during the war, a pilot shot down over Italy. He lived for two years in a veterans' hospital. Glennon served on submarines and survived many a bone-chattering depth charge.

But World War II is not what they discuss as they conquer the hill.

"We talk about the project he's on at the time," said Jones. "He's very determined about his community center recommendations."

Jones said Glennon is very disciplined. "I need his discipline to walk," he added.

"I have to be active to be happy," Glennon explained. "I have to have a project."

Jones grew up moving about in a military family and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. Following submarine duty during the war, he commanded several ships and was fleet plans officer for the commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during the first two years of the Vietnam War. After his naval retirement, he joined the private sector and planned the construction of attack and missile submarines, including the Trident.

When one of his former Navy buddies died, Glennon came to the aid of his widow, Barbara Bunn.

"He was my knight in shining armor," Barbara said.

They married in 1974.

In 1988, they moved to Tega Cay, seeking what residents there call "The Good Life."

He's played many a golf game since. He became a master gardener. He took his wife to places he had visited during the war and beyond.

Last spring, he contracted pneumonia, and his 2-mile walks became abbreviated.

"I'm building my strength back," he said with customary determination.

Reflecting on his life and adventures, he said nothing can surpass Tega Cay.

"I've never been as contented as I am right here," he said. "It's a wonderful, wonderful place."