Philip Gregory Bauer


The Key Peninsula lost a bit of luster May 21, 2023, when Phil Bauer died peacefully at his home in Vaughn, surrounded by family. He was 87 years old.

Phil was raised in rural Iowa on his grandfather’s farm, with two working parents and his sister, Beverly. He attended the University of Nebraska, where he played both football and basketball for the Cornhuskers. He also joined the Army ROTC, looking forward to his life after college and the $29 a month it paid.

In 1961, Phil was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, and enlisted in ranger school, where he nearly broke the record for completing the physical endurance test. He went on to flight school and from there to Vietnam as a special forces pilot, where he flew five different types of fixed-wing aircraft, principally the Cessna 0-1 Birddog.

After his first tour, Phil learned to fly helicopters. In 1966-67, now Capt. Bauer returned to Vietnam ferrying the de Havilland Caribou across the Pacific, and flying Huey helicopters in country. On one of his ferrying trips, with a stopover in Honolulu, Phil met his first wife Marty. They had four children together, Greg, Andrew, Dana and Daniel.

Phil retired from active duty after his second tour but joined the Air National Guard. He spent 24 years in uniform and retired from the Army with the rank of major. He was awarded the Bronze Star and 43 air medals.

In civilian life, Phil flew commercial airliners for the next 32 years for Western and Delta airlines. While a pilot for Western, Phil met a flight attendant named Kathy in 1974. They renewed their acquaintance in 1987 and began dating shortly after Phil had moved to the Key Peninsula. They were married a year later, and Kathy moved in with her daughter, Taylor.

Phil made his final commercial flight in 2000 and increased his community activism at home. In 2006 he was named the Key Peninsula Citizen of the Year. He was president of the KP Civic Center at least four separate times and served on the board until his death. He shepherded the civic center’s skate night for over a decade, often donning skates and joining the kids on the floor. He helped with the formation of Two Waters Arts Alliance and served on its board. He worked tirelessly for the KP Fair during its run and helped build homes for Habitat for Humanity.

For many of its residents, the peninsula is not the same without Phil Bauer. He was continually helping friends and neighbors, bolstering nonprofits and community events, and sowing goodwill with humor, generosity and kindness that spanned the peninsula’s length. 

Phil is survived by his wife, Kathy; his sons, Andrew and Dan Bauer; his daughters, Dana Richardson and Taylor Rydell; his grandchildren, Luke and Jake Richardson, Sophia Bauer, and Ella and Ada Rydell. His eldest son, Gregory Bauer, preceded him in death.

A celebration of life will occur at the Blues, Brews & Brats event Oct. 7 at the KP Civic Center.