You could have excused Phillip Radford for being gloomy. At age 12, his father died, and the boy went to work to help support his family. Later, he saw combat duty in Vietnam with the U.S. Army.
And in middle age, he was laid off from his career position of 25 years as a manager at Control Data Corp., forcing him to plug away at an assortment of jobs until retirement.
But Radford never lost his sunny disposition. In the halls at work or in his Bloomington neighborhood, if you heard someone whistling a cheerful tune, you knew it was Phil.
Radford, 77, who spent his last four years in a nursing home, died June 4 of complications related to COVID-19.
“Really, when I think of him, I just think of an optimist. Just a positive outlook on life,” said his daughter, Alison Moidl of Maple Grove. “There was a lot of playfulness, silliness. He had a great laugh. When we were together as adults, we would be laughing all the time.”
An avid gardener, Radford couldn’t wait to get home every night, change into his work clothes and get out into the yard.
“He loved the backyard,” his daughter said. “He’d get out the hose and water the lawn and water the garden. He was always out there pruning.” He grew wonderful tomatoes and cucumbers, she added, sharing them with friends and family.
Radford and his wife, Mary Ellen, who survives him, didn’t have easy childhoods. So they did everything they could to show love and care for their three children.
“We spent a lot of time at Lake Harriet. We would bike and go swimming and have picnics there,” Moidl said. In the wintertime, the family would watch movies together while roasting marshmallows and hot dogs in their fireplace.
Another fond memory is accompanying her father on Saturday morning runs to the grocery store. And there was another important job that he handled, she added.
“He was the one that tucked us in at night. He would tuck us in and check in the closets and under the bed for monsters. And he was the spider killer in the house,” she added with a laugh.
Radford suffered a stroke 10 years ago that required him to use a wheelchair and affected his ability to speak.
“But it didn’t change him,” his daughter said. When he developed COVID-19, visitors were barred from his room.
“It was hard not to hold his hand and love him through it,” she said, but they were allowed to see him in person a week before his death.
In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by sons Jason of Bloomington and Michael of Crystal, and five grandchildren.