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Susquehanna Life

Every Day is Father's Day

Jun 18, 2015 08:47AM ● By Erica Shames

Sitting on the exact tractor that nearly claimed Roderick Phillips’s life a little over six years ago, he and his daughter, Stephanie Phillips-Taggart, smile knowing the truth of the old adage, ‘what doesn’t kill, you makes you stronger.”

“My dad is one of the strongest people I know—mentally and physically,” says 39-year old Phillips-Taggart, “Father’s Day is just another reminder of how lucky I am to have such a wonderful father. He’s been my rock over the years, especially during the hard times.”

Unfortunately, difficult times is something that the Phillips family knows all too well.

Just months after losing his wife of 34 years to an extended illnesses that required two organ transplants—Phillips, faced death himself during a tragic accident at his Lycoming County Farm.  After topping off his Kubota tractor with fuel on a hot humid day in May, he jumped on his tractor to clear brush—a job that he had been working on for weeks. 

“I had been consistently clearing brush on my property line, but that day something went terribly wrong,” says Phillips, who is now 60. 

Hitting uneven terrain, the ground beneath the front tire gave away, sending the tractor crashing into a tree. Pinned tightly between the seat and a tree, Phillips knew his situation was dire.

“The tractor was spilling fuel. If I didn’t find a way to turn the motor off, I knew it wouldn’t be long until the tractor caught fire,” says Phillips. “But I was pinned, I couldn’t reach the key.”

Broken ribs from the impact didn’t stop quick thinking Phillips from becoming a real life MacGyver. Feeling the pain and hearing the snapping of his bones, he was able to grab a tree branch, which he used to “jiggle” the key from the ignition, but that wasn’t the end of his struggles. To avoid asphyxiation, he had to hold himself up for over eight hours.

“I didn’t have any cell service and I didn’t know if anyone would realize that I was missing until after dark. I did a lot of praying that day. I didn’t want my family to lose another loved one,” say Phillips. “I knew I couldn’t hold myself up forever, but I knew what would happen if I let go. I don’t know where I found the strength to hold on, but I did.”

Later that night, Phillips-Taggart sensed something was wrong. 

“I was in bed, but I just couldn’t sleep. I had a strong feeling that I needed to go to the farm. I left my husband and three kids behind and traveled 45 minutes in the middle of a storm to look for my dad,” says Phillips Taggart.

When she pulled into the remote farm location, she found Phillips’ dogs circling his vacant truck. The farm house was dark and empty. The tractor was missing.

“That’s when my heart sunk. I remember shaking inside thinking, ‘where do I even begin to look for him?’ I knew I needed help so I drove to a neighbor’s house to call 911,” said Phillips-Taggart.

After returning to the farm with a group of neighbors, it didn’t take long to find him. Conscious, Phillips was able to responds to their calls.

“I was overwhelmed with joy, when I first heard him call back, but my joy was short lived after I saw his condition. He was crushed between a tree and the tractor. He was struggling to hold his upper body up. I ran to him, and held him up as he collapsed in exhaustion. I remember him saying to me that I was the ‘best daughter ever”,” says Phillips-Taggart. “I joked with him that he had to say that because I was his only daughter.”

After approximately 45 minutes of waiting, the first responders arrived on the scene and delivered bad news. Life flight was able to land due to the weather conditions.

“A paramedic pulled me aside and prompted me to say goodbye to my dad. He said he had been entrapped too long,” says Phillips-Taggart. “Once they released him from the wreckage, it was very likely that his body would release potassium and stop his heart. I remember thinking, I just lost my mom--I can’t lose my dad too.”

Fortunately, Phillips made a fully recovery—something he credits to his faith and his daughter.

“I am not sure how I found the strength to survive—or how Steph just knew that something was wrong. It’s amazing how the day transpired. I guess my time wasn’t up yet,” says Phillips. “Thankfully so—added his daughter. “You have too much to do yet.”

Some may call the list of accomplishments since his accident impressive.

“My dad has always thought outside the box and he has won awards for his ingenuity in the workplace. When I was growing up, he would often think of ideas for new products then years later, we would see them on the shelf. Before my mom died, she composed a letter for my father to be read at her funeral.  Her letter encouraged him to keep inventing,” says Phillips-Taggart.  More information can be seen in the below video.

And that is exactly what he is doing.  Along with Upper Desk CEO, Matthew Fidler, and his daughter, who serves as president of Upper Desk, Inc., the team have brought new products to the marketplace while receiving several accolades for their entrepreneurial efforts—including a 2015 Small Business ImPAct award nomination from the Commonwealth of PA. Launching a new brand of smart device portable mounts for tablets, iPads, and smart phones, the company’s first product—the Portable Cabinet Mount for all size smart devices, has won three industry innovation awards—including the Gold Award for Innovation at the 2014 National Hardware Show, Las Vegas. The five star-rated consumer rated product can be found on-line and will be in over 300 Sam’s Club stores this fall.

“It takes passion and determination to launch a new product into a relatively new product category,” says Fidler. “Steph and her father, have that. That’s why I knew I wanted to lead the Upper Desk efforts.”

Phillips-Taggart, whose favorite t-shirt bears the words “live your dream,” believes that she fulfilling an aspiration alongside her father.

“He reminds me that no dream is too big and no matter what life hands us, faith, family, and determination can see us through. For me, every day is Father’s Day.”

Happy Father's Day The Upper Desk Inspiration

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