Philip J. Amelio, the actor who at age 9 played Lucille Ball's young grandson on the Life with Lucy series (1986), passed away April 1, 2005. He was 27.
In addition to Life with Lucy, Philip's career included a three year run (1988-91) on ABC's daytime serial, All My Children (photo, right), and a long string of commercials. He started acting at age 4, when he was cast for a Pepperidge Farm commercial. This led to campaigns for Ford Motors, All Laundry Detergent, and Shake 'N' Bake Bread Crumbs. Philip was the first spokesman for Jell-O Pudding Snacks. Here are a couple of photos from those early years:
Philip officially retired from show business at age 13 and concentrated on being a "normal teenager" and student. He had an impressive high-school career that included baseball, winter track and educational excellence.
Philip's love of language and history led him to study to be a teacher. He was graduated from State University of New York in Albany, and received a Masters Degree in Education at The College at St. Rose, also in Albany. For the past two years, Philip was employed at Duanesburg High School in Delanson, NY.
Philip also excelled at baseball and coaching. Throughout the years, he was the pitching coach for the Pine Plains (NY) Junior League, and was the modified baseball coach at Duanesburg High School. In addition, he helped coach and teach dozens of players in the Pine Plains School District in numerous clinics and summer leagues -- often with his father, Philip Sr. Together they coached many of the players on the 2002 New York State Championship Baseball Team.
Phil Sr. recently commented, "The school in which Philip taught is naming an accredited English course after him, incorporating into the curriculum some of his own poetry and short stories -- as well as the literature he liked to read and teach. The school here in Pine Plains dedicated a new flag pole and monument in his name as a 'thank you' for all he did for boys in the area (teaching them the finer art of baseball)."
Phil Sr. attributes his son's sudden death to a tragic misdiagnosis. "Philip was healthy as a horse all of his life. The beginning of March, while he was attending a coaches' clinic at Cooperstown, he had a pain in his back. The doctors thought it was just a herniated disc or syatica. No one thought to give him a blood test. If they had, they would have discovered the pain was caused by a bacterial infection that had lodged on his heart valve and started to grow. He fought with all his strength, but died on April 1."
"Philip's experiences in show business resulted in him being a good teacher. Show business taught him so much about responsibility, dedication, and confidence... Even though it was 19 years ago, we always enjoyed telling people about the terrific experience we had doing Life with Lucy. Even though the show was cancelled and we heard some awful comments about it, we were always proud to tell everyone about how Lucy loved Philip."
Following is a story about Philip that was published in the Register Herald newspaper in the mid-Hudson Valley area of New York State, where Philip and his family lived:
For most people, it takes 60 years or better to attain their goals. But for others, like Philip John Amelio II, who died on April 4, he lived a lifetime in a mere 27 years. "He was always able to reach his next goal," said brother, Ryan. "Everything he did, he had a good time doing. He was always ready for the next challenge," he said. "He had an intellectual maturity," said Nolan, Ryan's twin. "He kept to himself unless you talked to him about baseball or politics." Nolan said one of his favorite memories of his older brother, who died from an infection, was a compliment he received.
"Once, while playing a Little League game, I made a nice play at second base," said Nolan. "When I came off the field, he shook my hand and said, 'nice play.' It meant so much to me. He always let you know when you did something good," he said.
"I've been coaching baseball since 1966, but he could look at a player and see what was wrong with his swing or his throw. He would evaluate kids for me that I could never do as well as he. We worked well together," said his father, Phil.
"He was a real student of the game. He read every book on baseball that he could get his hands on," said his father.
A letter from one of his former players expressed the sentiment of many of the players he coached.
"He was a great coach," said Eric Fiacco, in a letter to Amelio's family. "Without him, it wouldn't be an honor to play baseball today." "He was the epitome of, if you worked hard enough, you could do anything you wanted," said Ryan.
Ryan recounted a story about a screenplay written by Philip while in college.
"It was based on 'Black' by Pearl Jam," said Ryan. "The teacher liked it so much that out of all the other submissions, he read it in front of the 400-person class. For him to write that script was unbelievable. His writing led me to be more of a writer."
"He acted kind of uncomfortable around his niece," said sister, Lindsey, about her daughter, Kaitlyn. "But shopping for Christmas, he didn't go crazy except for the baby. Then, there was no limit. He had his own way of doing things and he always surprised you."
"Our intent was to get enough money for his college," said his father, about his son's acting career, which included stints on "All My Children" and on Lucille Ball's final TV show, "Life with Lucy." "He knew when he wanted to leave, he could," said Phil. Phil said that his son was the first spokesman for Jell-O Pudding Pops and performed in hundreds of other commercials. "He could sell anything," said Phil. "A piece of chicken or a car."
Ryan said Philip could've continued his acting career, but put it aside to teach.
"He decided he didn't want to act anymore," said Ryan. "He wanted to teach, so he just did it."
Philip earned a bachelor's degree in English and social studies at the University of Albany and a master's degree in education at the College of St. Rose before going on to teach at Duanesburg High School.
Ryan said he read one of Philip's evaluations as a second-year teacher at Duanesburg.
"It said he had skills that only a veteran teacher would have," said Ryan.
"Philip was 5' 4" and people looked up to him," said Nolan. "I'm really going to miss the way his players looked at him. They knew that he knew what it would take to make them better players and they respected that."
"I'm going to miss the big brother role model to look up to," said Ryan. "He was always able to get people to listen to him. He could say just one sentence out of his mouth and you would know he knew what he was talking about."
Both brothers also appreciated his sense of humor. "It was a smart sense of humor," said Ryan. "He never ragged on you, even if you did something stupid. He had a dry, sarcastic sense of humor that made people laugh."
Ryan said that it amazed him that a person, such as Philip, an accomplished actor who could've had a big ego, "didn't have an ounce of self-conceit."
Phil said his son, in front of the camera, was professional and self-confident, but off-stage he was quiet and humble.
"He never talked about growing up on the stage," agreed Ami Feulner, Amelio's girlfriend of four years. "He didn't want to draw attention to himself. He always said he was no better than anyone else." "He was a very outstanding person for having been a famous kid," said Martha Holmes, a resident of Pine Plains who directed Amelio in a feature for National Geographic.
"He'd become a very cosmopolitan person, but he didn't leave behind a single bit of his natural self. There was no braggadocio or a sense that he felt he was better than anyone else," she said.
"He was an accomplished stone mason," said Phil. "He worked for me every summer for 14 years. Last year, after his mom died, he spent the summer with me working on two jobs. He kept me from going nuts because work was the only thing channeling me away from my loss."
Feulner said he treated her better than anyone she had ever known. "What I will miss about him the most is his strength," she said. "He never got upset about anything. He never lost his temper. He always calmed me down when I was upset and did things for me when I couldn't do them."
"I wish I could pass the temper thing onto his niece," said Lindsey, with a laugh from her brothers and father.
"Since we have all the movies and commercials, she can see him and, hopefully, it will give her a sense of what he was like - that he was real person and not someone we just talk about," said Lindsey.
Philip's family has requested that in lieu of flowers (or other remembrances), donations be made to the new Philip J. Amelio II Scolarship Fund, that will benefit students of the Pine Plains and Duanesburg Central School districts in New York.
If you would like to make a donation by check or money order, please send it to:
Philip J. Amelio II Scholarship Fund
93 Hoffman Road
Pine Plains, NY 12567
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