Rumson Mourns Death Of Gifted Athlete, Writer - Philip Rehders died during weekend visit to alma mater
By John Burton
RUMSON - Philip Rehders has left his family and friends much, much too soon. But with his tragic passing at such a young age, he has left fond memories for those who knew him.
"He was just always so upbeat, always looking to help somebody," this week said Ken Rehders, Philip's father, recalling the impact his son had on those who knew him during Philip's mere 22 years.
Philip Rehders died unexpectedly on Sunday Oct. 5 while visiting friends over the weekend at his alma mater, Franklin and Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Philip's funeral was held last Saturday at St. Georges By the River Episcopal Church, 7 Lincoln Avenue, where Philip had served as an acolyte.
On the morning of the funeral, "The church was packed," his father said. "They actually had to have the utility room with speakers for people to sit in."
The church, the senior Rehders said, was filled with his son's friends from his days at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School. About 70 students from Franklin and Marshall College, many of whom were on the college's swim team with Philip, along with the college's athletic director made the trip to Rumson to attend the funeral, Rehders said. Prior to the funeral, the college president, John Fry, attended the viewing at Thompson Memorial Home, in Red Bank, Rehders also said.
College swim coach Bob Rueppel issued a statement last week, saying: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Rehders family. As a team we were devastated by the news, and it will be a long, emotional road back."
What came across from the remembrances of his son's friends. Rehders said, was Philip's love of language and the written word. He graduated in May with a major in English and Creative Writing, and a minor in Art History. According to his father, Philip hoped to pursue a writing career. He was a copious writer who kept a journal. The young man's college writing professor had said the younger Rehders "saw the world not through the main window," the elder Rehders said, "but through a side window."
"He knew the small things mattered in big ways," his father said.
Philip Rehders was a three-time All Shore swimmer in high school, and was the captain of his college varsity team. Swimming was, "extremely important to him," Rehders said. "He loved the camaraderie. He loved getting the whole team as one."
But more than his writing, more than his sense of humor, more than his joy in swimming, "He was a kind person," Rehders remembered. "Just a gentle soul, very funny, very blunt; and just a great son and a great grandson."
Last Friday, the Rumson-Fair Haven football team dedicated its game to Philip's memory. After the game, "which they pulled out in the last moment of the game," the team presented the Rehders family with the winning game ball, Rehders said.
The young man, known for his sense of humor, his bear hugs and joy of life would have appreciated it. "To tell you the truth, he was my best friend," his father confided, adding, "I wish I was like him."
According to Lancaster City Police, officers and emergency medical personnel at 4:52 a.m. on Oct. 5 responded early on Oct. 5 to reports of an unresponsive male at the Thomas Hall dormitory, where they discovered Philip Rehders, according to Sergeant Todd Umstead, a police spokesman.
Rehders was transported to Lancaster General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short while later, Umstead said.
Based upon interviews conducted as part of the investigation, officials said, it was determined Rehders had been drinking that evening, but a cause of death has not yet been determined.
An autopsy was performed but authorities are awaiting the toxicology report and the final coroner's report. Umstead added, "There was nothing to indicate he was a victim of a crime."
Rehders is survived by parents, Ken and Meg Rehders, his younger siblings, David, Thomas and Marghy; his grandmother, Florence Rehders, and 12 aunts and uncles and nine cousins.