Philip Cardinalis was born in the lower East Side of New York City and grew up between the lower East Side and Harlem. His parents had been part of the Great Migration of the early 1900’s. Phil was the seventh out of nine children. Being raised in the city helped Phil learn about awareness of surroundings and keeping a proactive attitude. Phil graduated at the top of his high school class, and he even had a 2nd class commercial FCC license for broadcasting before graduating, which allowed him to work in electronics. Unfortunately, at the age of 19 and being an African American, he found it difficult to get a job in this field. So Phil decided to join the U.S. Army in 1951. He did his Basic Training at Camp Gordon, GA, which was his first experience behind the “Cotton Curtain”. He graduated at the top of his class at Tech School (Electronics) also at Camp Gordon. This was the era of integrating the military for African Americans and Phil became an unwilling frontrunner for this endeavor.
Phil’s first tour of duty was in Korea working in the Electronics field, repairing equipment. It was here that he was shot at by a sniper, but fortunately the sniper missed him. He was the first African American in the unit. Phil was promoted rapidly and when it became time to be in charge, as a senior ranking NCO, he was shipped out involuntarily to Japan on a consecutive tour. Here, Phil was put in charge of ship to ship electronics as the NCOIC. Later, Phil did a tour in Vietnam, where he was a military escort for a Nationalist Chinese Army Captain from Taiwan. It was a quasi-military arrangement, in which Phil was stationed near the base. He also was an advisor to the Korean Air Force, dealing with the Aircraft Early Warning System. Phil retired after 20 years from the Brooklyn Army Base, NY.
After retiring, Phil spent his next ten years working in Civil Service as a Foreman at an Air Force depot, repairing electronic equipment. Again he was promoted quickly in this WS grade and he also became the union steward. After his second retirement, Phil came to AFRH-W in the 1970’s. He had been a single parent all these years and his children have done well, with degrees in Engineering, Accounting and Computer Science. He was instrumental in starting the resident Newcomers’ Room, and thoroughly enjoyed helping residents learn their way around both at the home and downtown. With Phil’s experience with electronics, he also helped setup the first Resident Computer Lab in the old Scott building and assisted residents in learning how to use computers.