The Charlottesville 29 sings of the unsung. The excellence of our area’s restaurants, after all, stands on the shoulders of hard-working people whose efforts are rarely noticed, and almost never celebrated.
Least visible of all — and yet perhaps most important — is the toil of farmers. Every day, all over the area, farmers quietly go about their work with a commitment that is indispensable to your favorite restaurant dishes tasting so good.
There may be no better example than Phil and Deirdre Armstrong of Harvest Thyme Herbs. For more than a decade, their passion for growing vegetables and herbs has enhanced lives to a degree few appreciate. Literally thousands of plates of food have been made more delicious because of their work. The Ivy Inn, The Shack, Maya, and Zynodoa are just some of the award-winning restaurants that depend on their produce.
But beyond being good farmers, the Armstrongs have a well-earned reputation as great people – one of the kindest couples you ever could meet. Many chefs have long considered themselves not just the Armstrongs’ customers, but their friends.
Sadly, Phil passed away last week after a sudden illness. The Charlottesville food community will miss him deeply. The Shack’s Ian Boden, for one, recalls that the Armstrongs were the first farmers he met when he returned to the area from New York. Eventually, they became such close friends that they even attended his wedding. “Phil was the strong silent type but very warm at the same time,” says Boden.
The Ivy Inn’s Angelo Vangelopoulos also has fond memories. “I so enjoyed getting to know Phil over the years. His fishing stories, the ‘contraband garlic,’ and his love for Deirdre will serve as such great reminders of what a wonderful, colorful, and strong life he lived,” say Vangelopoulos. “I miss him dearly.”
So too will Jeremiah Langhorne, of The Dabney. “Within the first ten minutes of meeting Phil and Deirdre Armstrong, I knew they were special not just as farmers but also as people,” says Langhorne. “The excitement Phil had over things like unique pepper varieties and old farming techniques was inspiring, as were the genuine warmth, friendship and extreme dedication to quality both in what he grew and how he lived. He and Deirdre became very close friends of ours, as I imagine is true of most people whose lives Phil touched.”
A service in celebration of Phil’s memory will be held Thursday, March 8, at 10:00 am at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, in Staunton. Below is Phil’s obituary as printed in the Staunton News Leader. Please join us in celebrating the life of Philip Armstrong.
ARMSTRONG, Philip Michael
It is with great sadness that the family of Philip M. Armstrong (Phil) announces his sudden passing on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, at the age of 75 years. Phil is survived by his loving wife of 31 years, Deirdre (nee Flanagan), his daughter Dana Lord, and siblings Daniel Armstrong and Anne Flade. He is preceded in death by his parents, Philip and Anne Armstrong. Phil will be missed and lovingly remembered by his large extended family.
After serving in the U.S. Army for four years, in 1967 Phil began a distinguished 30-year career in the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), first at the National Photographic Interpretations Center (NPIC), then at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). He began his tenure at DIA with the Joint Staff, J2 in the Pentagon. There he was assigned to the North Korea Branch and manned the Asia Pacific Desk in the National Joint Military Intelligence Center (NJMIC). While with J-2, Phil developed expertise in Indications & Warning (I&W) processes, techniques and methodologies and shared this knowledge with analyst at the U.S. Combatant Commands and with our foreign counterparts. Before retiring in 1997 Phil served at the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center (DIAC) – now known as DIA Headquarters – located on the Joint Base Anacostia – Bolling in Washington, D.C.
Once retired, Phil found joy in fishing and creating a small farm in Staunton with his wife, which supplies specialty herbs and vegetables for area chefs.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in memory of Phil on Thursday, March 8, at 10:00am at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 118 N New St, Staunton, VA 24401. In lieu of flowers, those who so desire may make memorial donations in Phil’s name to St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.