It is with great sadness that the family of Dr. Phillip Howard Wilks announce that he died at home in Cary, N.C. on March 13th, 2021 at the age of 86.
He will be lovingly remembered by his wife and best friend of 40 years, Carol J. Wilks(“Snooky”), His children, Andrew Wilks, David(Julia) Wilks, Wendy (Michael) Conway, Susan(Daryl) Miller, Adam Harmon and Deborah (Stephen) Burke, 14 wonderful grandchildren who he was very proud of, and his sister Susan (Norman) Pollack. He is predeceased by his son, HughWilks.
Phil was born in Dayton, Ohio to Ida and Hyman Wilks on April 13th,1934. He graduated from Springfield High School in1951 and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in 1956 from the University of Cincinnati. He continued his education at Northwestern University earning a Master’s of Science degree in Inorganic Chemistry in 1957 and a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 1966.
Phil started his love for chemistry long before he went to college. He was an aspiring fireworks operator or “alleged fireworks operator” in his neighborhood. Later on, he started his “lawful”chemical engineering career at Westinghouse Electric Company working on numerous projects including a “top secret” “classified” government project and planning rocket missions in space. This did include the development of the first nuclear-powered airplane for the Defense Department — until someone realized that having nuclear reactors in the sky might not be a good idea. He moved to New Hampshire in 1969 where he would eventually start his own company Plasma Materials Inc, based on an approach he developed and patented. Although the business primarily focused on making toner for copying machines. His approach was so efficient he could charge less than half the amount of any competitor and still make more profit
per order than they could. But his innovative approach with plasma torches enabled him to make specialized grenades and a thin film of industrial diamonds. That thin film could be used to make jet engines more efficient and make laser-guided missiles more effective – the last bit may have accidentally on purpose found its way to Israeli scientists. This will come to no surprise given his well known love and support of Israel.
Retiring early in the 1990’s, he and his wife Carol moved to Key West. They bought a place where the view “doesn’t suck” and where he enjoyed “doing nothing” productive for over 20 years. His “unproductive life was mostly spent” walking hand-and-hand with his wife Carol. They would walk to get lunch, dinner, and sundry items – mostly as an excuse to walk and talk today. They could easily rack up 3-5 miles every day just going out to get a baguette. They appreciated the beauty and enjoyed all the eccentricities of a southernmost ”life” And of course when you live in Key West, you expect an endless procession of family and friends to come calling. Phil Enjoyed those visits immensely – especially those that included his grandchildren.
In 2017, Phil moved to Cary, N.C. with his wife to be closer to family. Phil was brilliant, curious, and insightful, but he was best known for his sense of humor and love of storytelling, He was kind, generous, and spent the last 40 years with the love of his life.
A private funeral service will be held at the Judea Reform Congregation Cemetery on Wednesday, March 17th, 2021.
Donations can be made in memory of Phillip Wilks to: Friends of Israel Defense Forces(IDF) – fidf.org, Judea Reform Congregation – judeareform.org, B’nai Zion- bnaizionkw.com. https://bnaizionkw.com/donations/