Submitted by his son
Lester Phillips began the Sunshine Volunteer Fire Department in 1981 with three of his neighbors. The fire department consisted of a trailer loaded with used fire hose‚ a fire hydrant and a pick up truck. A large dinner bell in his yard was used to spread the word that a fire exists.
His dream for the fire department began after the municipal fire department elected out of covering the unincorporated communities in this small southeastern Kentucky county and the fact that when a train passed through the community it became isolated for long periods of time.
Today‚ the fire department is equipped with a series of fire engines and tankers‚ turnout gear and many tools needed in firefighting. When it all began it was only a dream. Through the years‚ donations from residents‚ fundraisers‚ assistance from the Kentucky Division of Forestry and county government helped move the department forward.
He was inducted into the Southeast Kentucky Firefighters Hall of Fame in 2002. He was an early member of the Harlan County Rescue Squad and a past member of the Harlan Volunteer Fire Department.
While Phillips died at the age of 72‚ he was actively working in his business‚ Lester Phillips Excavating. He would often take the jobs no one else would as a result of the steep incline or other hazard.
He was a member of the Sunshine Baptist Church‚ where he had been active in many ways. He was popular with the church crowd for his large homemade grill used for all those outdoor church dinners.
Preceded in death by his wife‚ Maria Teresa Bianchi Phillips‚ and two sons‚ John D Phillips and Jimmy Phillips‚ he is survived by three sons‚ Jerry‚ Jeff and Joel‚ all of Harlan‚ Daughter-in-laws‚ Tammy‚ Karen and Frances‚ five grandchildren‚ Johnny‚ Josh‚ Joel‚ Emily and Jay Phillips.