By Lasca Randels
SILVER LAKE — Residents of Silver Lake are feeling a void after the man many thought of as the town’s unofficial mayor, Phil Shalley, passed away unexpectedly Wednesday, May 13, at the age of 73.
A resident of Silver Lake since 1967, Shalley worked for Conrail Railroad for 18 years and served as the Silver Lake town superintendent from 1991 through 2008.
Shalley was a member of the Silver Lake Volunteer Fire Department for 44 years and a town council member for eight years, serving through December 2019.
Most recently, Shalley had been spending time mowing at Sycamore Golf Course.
Several residents shared thoughts in memory of Shalley.
“There are so many things about Phil that made him one of a kind,” said Silver Lake Clerk-Treasurer Tonya Conley. “One thing that I will keep in mind are his words of wisdom, ‘Just relax, this isn’t anything to get worked up about and in a hundred years we won’t remember anyway.’ I will always cherish his friendship and miss him dearly.”
Silver Lake Deputy Clerk Kendra Watkins said, “I think, as the majority of the citizens of Silver Lake, I do not recall a time when I didn’t know Phil. He was knowledgeable in all areas of life, which made taking his advice easily to heart. He was so loved and cared about, not just by me but by the community, a true Silver Lake Legend.”
“He was a good friend and always willing to help, no matter when or what it was,” said Joey McNeal, Silver Lake water superintendent, who also served with Shalley on the fire department. “He always had the fire department and town’s best interest in mind.”
One thing mentioned repeatedly was Shalley’s willingness to help anyone.
An excerpt from a post on the Silver Lake, Indiana Facebook page, where many are sharing memories of Shalley, reads in part: “A year or so ago we had a little boy who ran down to our house for safety reasons. He had no coat, no shoes in the winter. Here comes Phil, who heard the police call. He went and got a coat and shoes for the little guy. But that was Phil, if he could help in any way he would.”
Shalley has two daughters: Adrienne (Josh) Naibauer of New Haven; and Erin Shalley of Winona Lake; a son: Jeff Finke of Kewanna; and four grandchildren: Abigail, Leah, Lillian and Layla.
Erin spoke with InkFreeNews about her father.
She said she has played softball since age five. She is now in her 40s and said this will be the first year she’ll be playing softball without her father being there.
“When I was little he coached me and when I got older, he was my number one fan,” Erin said. “My whole life he made me feel loved and supported. It’s not every day that you lose your dad and your best friend at the same time.”
Shalley was also known for speaking his mind.
“One of the most important lessons he taught me is ‘Respect people with your truth,’” Erin said. “He didn’t mind ruffling feathers to speak his truth.”
Silver Lake Fire Chief John Conley spoke of Shalley’s role with the department.
“Phil was our rescue 11-1 driver. If there was a run and he was first to the station, he would start the first two out trucks and be sitting in the rescue waiting to go,” Conley said. “And if the engine rolled out the door and you were just coming in to get your stuff, you better hurry because he left many running out the door after him. So the guys learned to grab gear and get in the truck if they wanted a ride”
Conley said a few months ago, Shalley was at the Silver Inn when a patron began choking on a piece of candy. According to Conley, Shalley performed the Heimlich maneuver and saved the man’s life.
“It was not a big deal (to Shalley) that he saved the guy’s life,” Conley said. “Phil would do anything he could for you. He did not expect anything in return.”
Conley said Shalley’s parting words to him were always “call if you need anything.”
“And those were his last words to me on Monday — ‘Jonathon, call if you need anything,’” Conley said. “He will greatly be missed and the hole will never be filled. I don’t throw these words around a lot, but I loved that man.”
Silver Lake Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Morris Jones described Shalley as “a good father, a great grandfather to his grandkids, a heck of a firefighter in his early days and a good friend.”
No viewing or memorial service will be taking place. Shalley’s family is asking that friends honor Shalley’s life by paying it forward and helping someone out.
“My dad cared for people and his community,” Erin said. “So just take a few hours and help your neighbor, help the people around you — that’s all he’d want.”
Memorial donations in Shalley’s memory may be made to the Silver Lake Fire Department, 702 E. Main St., Silver Lake, Indiana 46982 and would be appreciated by the family.
“Phil had an incredible heart for our town. He served as a volunteer fireman for over 40 years, he was the town superintendent, he was on the town council and he served the town in so many other ways,” said Chad Miner, Silver Lake Council President. “I cannot put into words how much Phil will be missed by the town and by me. Phil was the kind of guy who was always there when someone needed him. The Good Lord only made one Phil Shalley and Silver Lake won’t be the same without him.”