Izaak Walton League inducts Phil Ross into its hall of fame

Jean Ross (left) displays awards given to her late husband, Phillip Ross, for his contributions to the Izaak Walton League. Their son-in-law, Robert Goings (right) serves as the league’s current president in Huntington County.
Jean Ross (left) displays awards given to her late husband, Phillip Ross, for his contributions to the Izaak Walton League. Their son-in-law, Robert Goings (right) serves as the league’s current president in Huntington County. Photo by Ehren Wynder.

Originally published Oct. 5, 2015.

Phil Ross is remembered as a lifetime conservationist.

The former president of the Huntington chapter of the Izaak Walton League died Feb. 11, 2007, at the age of 86.

Seven years after his death, he has been inducted into the Izaak Walton League Hall of Fame. The honor was presented in 2014, by the Izaak Walton League in Pierre, SD.

He is also the recipient of several awards recognizing his research and his lifelong adherence to the members’ pledge to conserve nature in all facets.

Ross, who moved to Huntington from Connecticut in 1960, worked as an engineer and frequently researched ways to improve air, water, and soil.

He carried that concern over to his private life and has been praised for his work to provide clean water to Arlington Heights and Norwood estates in the 1980s.

His wife Jean Ross continues to contribute to the Izaak Walton League, along with their son-in-law and current president of the Huntington County organization, Robert Goings.

“His work was never just focused on any one area,” Jean says.

Her husband, she says,  “worked a lot on the land, a lot on the water — there are people here locally who have no idea that they have Phil Ross to thank for the clean water that they’re drinking.”

Phil Ross worked with then-president of Norwood Estates Association, Steve Stecher. Ross’s research contributed to Stecher’s work in providing clean and adequate water to Norwood Estates, Jean notes.

Ross learned that the owner of the sewer treatment plants, Don Rice, was mismanaging his plants and illegally charging residents for services not provided. Rice would later be charged in court and stripped of all of his holdings.

The Rosses also fought to conserve publicly owned land. Evergreen Park remains in existence largely in part to the contributions of the Rosses, Goings says.

County commissioners would have privatized the land, previously owned by a man named George Bippus, he says. Bippus “left the land for the good of the people,” Jean Ross says, “and we just made sure that the land was ultimately used for the good of the people.”

Phil Ross continued to contribute to the land by endorsing what is known as the Bedminster process, Jean says. The process works by collecting waste in a large rotating drum that “cooks” the waste and produces clean metals, glass and plastics. The process leaves behind tillable nutrients in soil.

Ross was unable to popularize the Bedminster process in the United States, where land for burying waste is cheap and easily accessible, she says. The process is currently used in Sweden, Ireland and other European countries.

Ross urged communities not to burn their waste products, which were polluting the air. He also publicized problems with coal-fired furnaces, which are used to produce electricity. He discovered that the furnaces were putting tons of fine ash into the air, some of which was acidic, Jean Ross says. The runoff would go into lakes and make the bodies sterile, unable to support marine life.

Jean says Phil would often share his research with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) in Indianapolis.
“We would go in the building,” Jean recalls. “Before we got to the third floor, word went all the way up to the 11th floor that ‘the Rosses are in the building.’”

The Rosses spoke with water quality and enforcement administrators to provide clean water to the city of Huntington, Jean adds.

Jean says her husband’s research was motivated by his life-long love of nature. She says that since he was young he had been immersed in camping and surviving in the wild.

“[He] couldn’t bear the thought that people were squandering some of the rich heritage that we have been given on this planet,” Jean says. “Anytime we went anywhere we wanted woods, water, wildlife and clean air. We were outdoor people — he taught me how to survive in the wild. He really knew what he was doing.”