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HERB BENHAM: Shedding light on Phillip Scott

People responded to the column about the mystery man, the late Phillip Scott. Scott was a veteran, businessman and passionate supporter of the arts.

With the help of readers, we are trying to paint a more accurate picture of Scott. Several likened him to the Westchester version of Boo Radley, the character in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Scary on the outside but tender inside.

“Thanks for the article on Mr. Scott. I'm curious, did you find out if he was buried at the National Cemetery? As a vet, he certainly earned that privilege.”

Thanks, Sharon Langham

Sharon, I checked the registry for the Bakersfield National Cemetery and could not find a record of Mr. Scott having been buried there.

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Chris Livingston wrote: “Mr. Scott was a regular here at the Walter Stiern Library before COVID. He also frequented the events we had here on campus. I also believe he was a member of the 60+ Club at CSUB.”

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“Thoughtful piece on Phil Scott,” wrote Paul Gipe.

I always liked his presence — and he was everywhere we went. I was curious about him too as he seemed homeless. He was always forthcoming and told us he lived downtown so it was easy for him to walk to events. I'll miss him. He was one of the characters that gave Bakersfield character.”

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Mona Sidhu:

“I especially loved the picture of Phil Scott. I'd never seen him smile, or without his usual wool cap and glasses.

“When I moved back to Bakersfield a few years ago, I noticed him at various events at CSUB, BC, Beale library, and other places. My friends and I often saw him waiting for the bus after the events.

“I told a friend I hoped when I got to his age, I would have the energy to ride the bus all over town to keep up with my interests! Though I never saw him smile, seeing him never failed to put a smile on my face.”

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Shelley Dunlap:

“Good article about Phillip Scott,” wrote Shelley Dunlap. “A lot of lessons in your words.”

Meaning this, I think. Easy to look at somebody and write them off because they don’t look like we do. Of course I’ve never done that.

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“I knew Philip because he would come to the different concerts we hosted,” wrote Kyle Carter, owner with his wife, Kim, of the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame.

“He would also come to our junior theater shows.

“At first, some parents were concerned because he seemed like he might be homeless, but he wasn’t.

“He was kind, bright and loved music. On several occasions, we had good and interesting conversations. I always looked forward to seeing him. He was a treasure and will be missed.”

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Wayne Kress, a broker and principal in Cushman & Wakefield, remembers Scott:

“I met him in 2005, when a partnership Mike Burger and I formed bought property from him at the southwest corner of Fruitvale and Downing Avenues, about a 10-acre parcel. In the middle of 10 acres of dirt and tumbleweeds sat an old and seemingly-uncared-for sideboard house with a column of dead palm trees leading to it. The property was surrounded by a short chain-link fence with the entry gate chain-locked. The palm trees looked like twin rows of brown dead thumbs.

“The trees led to a covered porch on which sat stacks of floor-to-ceiling newspapers, and on the entry stoop nearly always sat Phillip, reading a newspaper. I’d occasionally see him walking to or from this house, and every great while I’d see him around town, with those Vons plastic bags in tow.

“Phillip ignored our letters offering to buy his property, and we’d pretty much given up when my former associate, Oscar Baltazar, came to the office one day and said he saw Phillip sitting on his stoop and spoke with him. He wanted a million dollars for his land — more than we thought it to be worth. Nonetheless, we drafted a purchase offer for that amount and Oscar delivered it to Phillip, again sitting there on his stoop. For a while, we didn’t hear anything.

“One day, my receptionist called and said an ”interesting looking character” walked into our lobby asking for me. I was surprised to see Phillip, with our offer in-hand and extended to me. No greeting, no small talk, just 'it’s signed.' Then he turned and left. I’d almost forgotten we even made the offer.

“We learned he inherited this property, had no living relatives, had graduated from UCLA with an accounting degree and worked with the County Roads Dept in accounting.

“There were two oil wells on his property, which had not been properly abandoned . . . and Phillip didn’t have the resources to accomplish a proper abandonment. We partnered with him to develop it until a surprise purchase offer showed up, compelling us to sell. We delivered Phillip a check for one million dollars. I needed a last-minute and time-sensitive signature from him to close escrow, but none of us had phone connections with him. I drove the streets looking for him, which proved quite easy. I found him on Fruitvale Avenue on his way to Rosedale Hwy, drove him to the escrow company, procured his signature, then drove him back to where I found him; he didn’t want me to take him anywhere else.”

“He simply shifted his daily stoop sitting to 20th and D Streets — amid new stacks of newspapers, growing stacks.” He also invested in another partnership Mike and I formed — a partnership that continues to this day (I don’t know what we’ll do with his share).

“I’d occasionally see him at Vons. He was always polite, but I nonetheless sensed he never knew who I was, despite my introducing myself every time, and he routinely declined my offers to drive him home.

“I’m not active on Facebook now, but when I joined in 2009, Phillip extended one of my first friend requests and since then never failed to send Leslie and me invitations to Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra productions.”

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.