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Philip George Furia

November 15, 1943 - April 03, 2019

Philip's Obituary

Philip George Furia was born November 15, 1943 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Ethel Rose Szilagyi Furia and Philip Andrew Furia. He passed away April 3, 2019 in Wilmington, NC after a short stay in the hospital. Phil was predeceased by his mother Ethel and his father Philip.

He grew up in West Mifflin, a suburb of Pittsburgh, next to Kennywood Park, an amusement park where he worked as a barker during his high school years.

In 1961, Phil graduated from Duquesne High School in Pittsburgh and attended Oberlin College in Ohio, majoring in English. Following his graduation from Oberlin in 1965, he attended the University of Chicago, receiving his Master of Arts in English in 1966. Phil then attended the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop where he received his Master of Fine Arts and his PhD from the University of Iowa in 1970.

Upon receiving his degree, Phil started teaching at the University of Minnesota's Department of English. In 1995, he became Interim Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences for Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In 1996, he left the University of Minnesota where he had been the Department Chair, Assistant Chair, Director of Undergraduate Studies, and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs of the College of Liberal Arts.

He left the University of Minnesota to become the Chair of the Department of English at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 1996. During his tenure there, he was also the Director of the Film Studies Program, Chair of the Department of Creative Writing, and Interim Chair of the Department of Theatre. Most recently, he was a professor in the Department of Creative Writing. He also presented a weeknight segment on Wilmington’s public radio, WHQR, called "The Great American Songbook with Philip Furia" and did interviews with Terry Gross (Fresh Air) and Larry King. Phil wrote and performed many shows to benefit WHQR and the Wilmington Jazz Society and in Minneapolis performed shows with his friend, Les Block, to be benefit the Minneapolis Jewish Community Center.

Phil is best known for his appearances and contributions on the great American songbook. His publications include:

  • Pound's Cantos Declassified (1984)
  • The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America's Great Lyricists (1992)
  • Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist (1996)
  • Irving Berlin: A Life in Song (1997)
  • Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer (2004)
  • America's Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley (2006), with Michael Lasser, host of Peabody Award-winning public radio program Fascinatin’ Rhythm
  • The Songs of Hollywood, with Laurie J. Patterson (2010)
  • The American Song Book: The Tin Pan Alley Era, with Laurie J. Patterson (2015)

Some of the recognitions that Phil is most proud of include his Faculty Scholarship Award (University of North Carolina Wilmington, 2006); Key to the City of Savannah, presented by Mayor Floyd Adams for Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer, 2003); Scholar of the College (University of Minnesota, 1991-94); Distinguished Teaching Award (University of Minnesota, College of Continuing Education and Extension, 1989); and a recipient of a Fulbright Professorship (University of Graz (Austria), 1982-83).

Phil loved to travel. He loved to plan his trips and read about where he was heading. He always had his family in tow on the trips. He was currently planning his next trip to Montreal, Canada. One trip he was particularly pleased with was his trip to Guatemala in 1999. His daughter Olivia was born there and parenting, again, arrived when he was in his mid-50's. Phil was immensely proud of his three children.

He also loved to cook. He cooked on odd numbered days and would tell whoever would listen that there were months that ended on an odd day which could have meant cooking two nights in a row. He would then immediately say the second night was a chance to enjoy a local restaurant. Phil had been planning to retire at the end of this year from UNCW; planning to learn ancient Greek so that he could read the ancient classics in the language in which they had been written.

Phil leaves to mourn his passing: his wife and co-author, Laurie Patterson; daughter, Olivia Furia of Wilmington, NC; sons Peter (Jen Rubenstein) of Charlottesville, VA and Nick Furia of Minneapolis, MN; his brother Mark (Barbara) of San Luis Obispo, CA; grandchildren Zora Furia and Meghan Fish; great grandchildren Bentley Neumiller and Hazel Cali; his Patterson brothers and sisters-in-law: Chuck, San Marino, CA; Tom (Lorie Conway), Boston, MA; Sharon Trent, Westbrook, MN; Dianne Walsh (Bob), Minneapolis, MN; Bill (Bonnie), Westbrook, MN; Mary (Mike Kaine), Prescott, AZ; and Jim, Westbrook, MN. He also leaves an abundance of nieces, nephews, and grand nieces and nephews.

Two memorial services are planned for later in the year. One will be in Wilmington, NC and the second will be in Westbrook, MN where he married Laurie at a family reunion in 1995. Donations may be made in his memory to the John and Leona Patterson Memorial Scholarship, Westbrook Walnut Grove High School, Westbrook MN 56183.