Phil’s Remembrance ~ It is TODAY

At Wiley and Henna’s wedding here in August.


May you know that absence is alive with hidden presence, that nothing is ever lost or forgotten

May the absences in your life grow full of eternal echo.

May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere where the presences that have left you dwell.


John O’Donohue; Blessing for Absences; The Book of Blessings



Saturday October 30, 2021

10:30 AM – Rosary at St. John Vianney Catholic Church on Vashon, followed by

11:00 AM – Mass of Christian Burial, followed by graveside interment at Vashon Cemetery

Link to Livestream of Phil’s funeral Mass, Saturday, October 30th, 11:00 am, PST.

View Our Livestream – St John Vianney – Vashon, WA (


Pacific Time: 11:00 AM

Mountain Time: 12:00 AM

Central Time: 1:00 PM

Eastern Time: 2:00 PM

Buenos Aires Time: 3:00 PM

UK Time: 7:00 PM

Spain Time: 8:00 PM

Sydney Time: Monday 31stOct 7:00 AM

Auckland Time: Monday 31stOct 9:00 AM


A reception after the funeral mass and interment: I can now officially state that the reception for Phil Volker will be at the Sportsman’s Club pond following the gathering at the cemetery. Please bring a potluck dish of your choice and beverage of choice, though we will have some wine and maybe a keg, and a lot of venison something or other.

In Heaven (By BC Ron)

Felipe & Annie (pict provided by Ron)

Like many of you Caminoheads, The General is on my mind a lot as I walk the journey.  I often see mentions that “Phil would have loved that comment/picture/person/action.”  I especially think of the smile and glow of his eyes as he engaged in conversation, verbal or not, with others.  One thing that I am sure he would comment upon is stuck in my head and I invite you to comment on your reaction to this idea.


I am not a Catholic and I’m not too experienced with reciting prayers or sacraments but I got the idea in the years preparing for my Camino walk to meditate on a PHRASE of sacred language each day.  In keeping with the promise that the Camino provides, I found a tiny bible book in Virginia someplace and decided it was for me.  It contains many scripture passages that are worth having in one’s pocket if not in one’s memory.


I started my meditation with The Lord’s Prayer: 

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.


So that first day walking out of St Jean Pied de Port I said to myself over and over “Our Father, who art in heaven” on my way to Orisson.  I don’t recall any special feeling about that experience, but the next day on my long walk over the Pyrenees mountains witnessing creation in a special way I repeated and thought about “hallowed be thy name,” something fresh for me to think about and put in perspective that got me as far as Roncesvilles. “… thy kingdom come;” a concept often taught in the church accompanied me to Larrasoaña.  Celebrating a restful night in Spain I took on the longer phrase “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  And that phrase took me into new territory emotionally.


Here I repeated the words ‘in heaven’ for the second time in this exercise. The first day I understood it as God’s address – Heaven – and this fourth day “in Heaven” came to me in another way.


Here comes Phil’s smile and that glow in his eyes.  Ready?  


What I felt was that this second “in Heaven” wasn’t an address we hope to call home one day but more like “in Love,” which is God, inviting me to dwell therein.  And for me the Camino was this kind of heaven as I accepted the love of so many others and came to be comfortable with being in love/in heaven with them as well.


On hearing this can you see Phil turning his head to look into your eyes as you walk alongside him on his Camino?  Can you see how In Heaven he is on a daily basis?  Can you see yourself there as well?  May we be one …


In Heaven Love,



Shaping up Phil’s Remembrance III (Reception details)

Phil’s Angel’s: Anamaria, Laura and Alida.


Dear Caminoheads,


I was glad to know and read at Rebecca’s facebook that the arrangements for Phil’s remembrance are almost confirmed. Here are additional details, just copied from Rebecca’s facebook and a note that Henna wrote.

Okay, after a rather harrowing day of wrestling down the details of a reception after the funeral mass and interment: I can now officially state that the reception for Phil Volker will be at the Sportsman’s Club pond following the gathering at the cemetery. Please bring a potluck dish of your choice and beverage of choice, though we will have some wine and maybe a keg, and a lot of venison something or other. The sun is predicted to be in attendance. Park in the parking lot and walk the short walk to the east out to the pond, or drive up to deliver anything heavy and then park in the lot. This will be the time to speak any words you might wish to say about him. See you there.

Please feel free to join us for any or all of these events, masks are great! Please respect those who wish to stay distant and have fun.


Links to the mass and the time at several of the time zones in the world are in yesterday’s post:


Good-bye loves,



Shaping up Phil’s Remembrance II (link)

Extract from mass program. Provided by Catherine.


Dear all,

I am sharing here Catherine’s words I got in my email today.

As Dana, Rebecca, and I grapple with imaging just how many people will actually attend Phil’s funeral and celebration of life, we know that there are many who won’t be present. We thought that perhaps sharing the links to the obituary, to the planned livestream of his Mass, as well as an electronic copy of the Mass Program would be welcome.

Could you each post the information via your social media. FB etc. and encourage others do so as well? That would be wonderful.

Sending love from Vashon.


Link to Livestream of Phil’s funeral Mass, Saturday, October 30th, 11:00 am, PST.

View Our Livestream – St John Vianney – Vashon, WA (


Pacific Time: 11:00 AM

Mountain Time: 12:00 AM

Central Time: 1:00 PM

Eastern Time: 2:00 PM

Buenos Aires Time: 3:00 PM

UK Time: 7:00 PM

Spain Time: 8:00 PM

Sydney Time: Monday 31stOct 7:00 AM

Auckland Time: Monday 31stOct 9:00 AM

One Heck Of A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Good bye selfie at Tacoma airport with Catherine. Pict by me.

Dear Caminoheads,

Today, one more post of my first visit to Vashon… this one includes the menu at Catherine&Dana… to both refresh Catherine’s memory about the dinner they prepared for me (again, a city girl eating buffalo, corn bread with hand-made cornmeal and pears from their own tree… how cool is that?!) And  somehow, is related to the post that I will post next… more to come.

And yes, Phil put me to work. I became the lavender planter “in training” and the cover crop planter “in training” too.


Locally grown undergraduated Loves,




Man, the weather is gorgeous. It kind of gives outsiders the wrong impression of Seattle. We don’t want to let them know that it isn’t always rainy and gloomy. Not a cloud in the sky right now.

Last evening we had a fabulous dinner party over at Catherine and Dana’s in honor of Cris being here. We had buffalo pot roast and their own corn bread with a pear dessert. They know how to throw a dinner party believe me, all down home and elegant simultaneously.

Yesterday I put Cris to work on two projects along the trail. We planted some new lavender plants and dressed up some existing ones. Then we planted the cover crop where the corn stood not too long ago. I’m putting visitors to work lately on things that I need done and that are directly related to Phil’s Camino. Just a few more things to do to get ready for the winter season. I need to mow the grass on the trail yet so it will be short all winter and that makes for drier shoes. Still trying to get some gravel on the inclines in and out of the streambed to make that less slippery. Not that I want the trail to be too civilized just Caminoesque.

Oh, and My Rebecca pointed out that I had been spelling the name of author of Pilgrimage wrong. She’s good at that. So, it should be Shriver, no c in there anywhere. Sorry Mark, good book though.

Speaking of good books I am really looking forward to reading Pilgrim Strong, Steve Watkins’ new offering. Steve will be up to walk Phil’s Camino in November. He’s bringing a copy for me all the way from Arkansas, trying to save on postage I guess. Looking forward to getting our heads together, our Caminoheads. Ha!

Maybe we will have a venison dinner for him. My window to take a deer is soon. The best time to take a big deer here is during the rut, that’s the word for the mating season. The bucks tend to get quite careless forgetting Felipe lurks behind every bush.

Well, that’s the news from Raven Ranch and Phil’s Camino. Hope that it is entertaining for you. Miss you, love you, keep going, love, Felipe.


Re-posted by Cris, written by Phil/Felipe/The Boss/The General

“Have you met Pope Francis?”, was Phil’s question…

Pope Francis, mate in hand, and the image of Virgen de Luján (Patron of Argentina) – Pic from internet; author not quoted


Dear Caminoheads,

“Have you met Pope Francis?”; “What is <that thing> he drinks?” (it was our “mate”!)  Funny enough, those were the first two things that Phil asked me when we exchanged our first email. He asked me about the Camino afterwards! Phil was fascinated by Pope Francis and I happened to say I was Argentinian… That is how all this started…

Below is what Phil wrote on 26Oct2017… I have enjoyed reading it! Hope you too!

By the way, in my visit, I took Phil and Rebecca some -hands- soap made with “yerba mate”; Phil loved them…!

Mate loves,





Cris is here, sleeping off some of the travel wearies. She got here just in time for a big dinner last night with Wiley, Henna and James. They prepared the chukar partridge that we had brought home from the hunt. And then there was the second game of the Series on the tube, what a nail biter. So a party evening.

A good connection was made between Cris and James. He is working aboard a National Geographic ship that takes passengers on eco travel trips. He is on their dive team that takes folks on dives in these exotic places. He has been with them to Patagonia before and is heading down again soon so they were both talking Argentina. How fun!

Yesterday was complete with some great ups and downs. So glad that I have had all that inspiration about the North Star lately and keeping a steady focus there. Otherwise my life would be way too much of a roller coaster.

Having so much fun reading Pigrimage by Schriver about Pope Francis. Cris jumped right on it as she had never seen it before. The first part of the book has a lot about Buenos Aires and how the Church, geography and Argentine politics had a lot to do with his early formation. And now I am off to the second part about Jesuit training that was so influential. I have a new respect for priests that have been through all that, wow.

We have a walk this morning and I think that Catherine and Dana will be here. Then we have an invite to their place tonight for dinner. It is a place where hospitality abounds, so looking forward to that. Cris will love it. But inbetween I have some projects for us to work on planting a cover crop in the corn field and getting in five lavender plants along both along Phil’s Camino.

So, getting ready to make breakfast and get this show on the road. Getting light out and I can see it is overcast but that is supposed to burn off. Another day in God’s playpen! Love as always, Felipe.



Re-posted by Cris; written by Phil/Felipe/The Boss/The General

4 years ago… on a 25th of October…


I put my feet for the first time in Vashon Island and Raven Ranch!

Bekka, Felipe and Cris at Raven Ranch.


Dear Caminoheads,


4 years ago today, Phil went to Tacoma airport to pick me up. I had to travel for a work meeting to Chicago, and decided to cross the lake and go to Toronto and meet a very dear friend who I had met online at that time, 5 years before, but never met. And when booking my flights, I asked Phil if he would be up for a visit. He said yes, and that was it.


The next thing was me, landing in Tacoma, chatting away with Henry, the man who was sitting next to me in the flight, -who started a conversation with me when I asked the stewardess for cup of tea instead of coffee, and he said he worked for Twinnings. I guess he asked me what I did for a living, and when I told him, he shared with me that his best friend had a liver transplant many years ago and was alive due to a clinical trial -, and gazing Phil, wearing his red cap, in the distance.


Phil and I merged in a hug before I could say good bye to Henry, and before Phil would tell Henry: “She is a peach!” The three of us laughed, and Henry went on his way and Phil and I went to his truck. It was raining, and already then, all sounded so crazy! And it got crazier and funnier when we arrived to the ranch and I was introduced to these “birds” (chukers) that we would eat for dinner. -As you know, I am a city girl, so the birds with the feathers took me a bit by surprise!- We then watched baseball, Rebecca tried and tried and tried to explain to me what was going on in the pitch, and we had a great talk with James (who Phil calls “The Most Interesting Man in the World In Training”), Wiley and Henna.


That was the first evening of a fun 3 days… but it is late here, so more soon!

Chatty loves,



“Yea, Guerilla Gardening!”

A tiny plant thriving in the dirt accumulated in the roof of the parking lot at. Pict by Cris.


Dear Caminoheads,

Beauty, with capital B, is a word that has both interested, and at times, hunted me for years. The morning before The Veranda 2019 was about to start, Phil and I sitting were sitting at the table in the ranch having a cup of coffee and we talked about the quest that the writer John O’Donohue had started, which was “How to ask beautiful questions in <un>beautiful moments?”… Today I thought of this and this post below that Phil wrote as I looked at the piece of roof that remained in the parking of the building I live.


Enjoy. Reflect.



March 17, 2016 / Our Jennifer And I Have A Gardening Project

When I described our project to Our Michele, a knowledgeable horticulturalist,  she said, “Yea, Guerilla Gardening!”.   Well yea, something like that I suppose.   We have been working at it a month now since things are warming up around here.

A brief description would be that we discovered some viable patches of soil that need some love.  They exist where thousands of people would see them every day if only they had a little color to show off.  Right now they look like accidental piles of dirt that have built up over the years because of road dirt, bird poop and whatever has tended to collect due to natural forces.  And the area is so busy with traffic that it would be a huge hassle to close the road to clean up these untidy little piles so there they live sort of invisible.   We thought that there were three out of many that looked large enough to support flowers over the summer season.

This looks like a caper for Cancer Commandos if ever there was one.   Our Michele suggested Calendula since it is colorful and easy.  I added California Poppy because they are colorful and thrive on neglect.   So this is the blend.  So how do we actually get the seed in the “soil”?   We thought up this plan of mixing the seeds in water in a standard paper coffee cup like from Starbucks which are everywhere and attract zero attention.   Then since our hopefully fertile piles exist so close to the car window and since most time the traffic slows us down to walking pace we thought that casually pitching the cup of liquid on a strategic area as we roll by would look like we were jettisoning some cold coffee.

February 19th I did the first cup and yesterday I did the last of six.  And the piles are sort  of rough with a lot of crevices so sowing with lots of seeds with no raking in should mean that we could expect maybe a 10% germination.    That would work to bring some color to lots of folks from an unexpected place.   Well, we have our fingers crossed.

So geographically this area is where the West Seattle Freeway enters I5 North and there is a ramp that curves down and to the left.   There is a sign to Vancouver overhead  and the three piles are the largest ones around that sign.    So I got Wiley interested in the project and he could probably get all his friends to help water it over the dry of late summer.   What family fun!

Yesterday while I was conversing with one of my lovely nurses this project came up.   I am with these folks in the chemo treatment area for four hours so almost any new topic is appreciated  and explored.  I thought that this was a good one to mention.   So I’m describing the situation like I just did for you and she was listening and forming a pic in her mind.   And the dear came up with this great question that was a high point in my day.   She said, “Well, how do you know that no one will come along and clean those up and destroy your project?”.   Actually I had been thinking of this so the answer came quickly.   “That is the beauty of it!  It is a metaphor for our lives here with our cancer, right?  Get it?  We don’t know when we will be swept up from the living.   But that  shouldn’t stop us from planting something for the future.”    Yea, nice interchange.

Off to walk this AM.  Thursday morning is beautiful here with the rising barometer, rising love, Felipe.



Posted by Cris, written by Phil/Felipe/The Boss/The General

Phil Volker, a pilgrim who inspired thousands, dies at 73

(Meredith Brothers Photo) Phil Volker, at his home on Vashon, after he began his hospice care.

By ; Thursday, October 21, 2021 10:37am


Phil Volker, an islander who undertook a devotional journey that became an inspiration for thousands, died on Sunday, Oct. 10, at the age of 73.

As the subject of two award-winning films, “Phil’s Camino” (2016) and “Phil’s Camino: So Far, So Good” (2018), Volker was known worldwide for his remarkable response to his diagnosis of colon cancer ten years ago: he crafted a winding path, through the woods and pastures of his 10-acre plot of land on Vashon, that replicated El Camino de Santiago, the ancient 500-mile pilgrimage route across Spain.

The films also chronicle Volker’s joy, in 2014, as he traveled to Spain to walk the actual Camino after receiving permission from his doctors — contrasting his treks through the lush landscape of his Vashon path to the open, sun-drenched scenic journey he undertook in Spain.

Annie O’Neil, the director of both films, called Volker a member of her “soul family.”

“Phil became a hero to many of us because he was living so fully with something that looms as a huge fear and feels like it would be such a limitation,” she said.

Volker also established a vibrant community of fellow Camino devotees through his daily postings on a blog he created in 2014, Caminoheads, that is still active today.

In recent years, many of the blog’s contributors as well as his closest friends attended annual gatherings at Phil’s house on Vashon, to walk and pray on Phil’s Camino and also enjoy the conviviality and companionship of one another. The gathering was not held in 2020, but this summer, it reconvened in August. By this time, Volker had entered hospice care.

Volker’s wife, Rebecca Graves, said that her husband’s approach to his disease and impending death was to fully embrace his life.

“He hated the language of ‘battling’ or ‘fighting’ cancer,” she said. “He always said, ‘I’m dancing with cancer.’”

Volker was also known for other accomplishments on Vashon, where he lived for almost five decades.

As a Marine veteran, Volker was the first commander of Vashon’s American Legion Post 159, which he established on the island in 2002. His craftsmanship as a fine woodworker and carpenter is on display in many homes and businesses on Vashon. He was a longtime member of Vashon’s Sportsman’s Club, where he taught hunter safety and archery classes for many years. And as a convert to Catholicism after his cancer diagnosis, he was a faithful parishioner at Vashon’s St. John Vianney Church.

Volker’s close friend, Catherine Johnson, with whom he regularly attended Mass, said that Volker loved saying the Catholic Rosary.

“The Luminous Mysteries were his favorite,” she said. “He would often ask me, ‘What does it mean to be a person of light?’ Catholicism, with its sacraments, rituals and mystical experiences, while never fully answering his question, carried him more deeply and peacefully into the light.”

Volker’s death occurred in a large, four-walled canvas tent, dubbed “The Elk Hotel,” steps away from his house on Vashon’s south end, where he had requested to live as he entered hospice care for his cancer, in July.

The tent, according to his wishes, was decorated by his friends and family to fulfill Volker’s wish to die in the manner of a Civil War general, on the battlefield, complete with period furniture, maps and other adornments of the era.

Graves said that her husband’s declaration of this vision for his death, made to his hospice nurse, had taken both the nurse and her by surprise. The nurse, she said, had taken a deep breath after hearing Volker express his wish, before replying with one word — “Costumes?”

Throughout their marriage, Graves said, she had been surprised by her husband and described him as a complex and ever-evolving person.

Their daughter, Tesia Elani, also said that her father had softened in his later years, as he gained comfort and joy in expressing his emotions and being with other people.

“The things that used to be most difficult for him almost became his specialty,” she said, adding that by the time her father’s life had become centered on the divine experiences of his Camino, he had transformed.

The seed of his success in making this transformation, she said, came from his lifelong way of approaching tasks in a meticulous way — a skill that was evident in the step-by-step construction of his backyard Camino.

“He measured the mileage of it, and matched it to the Camino [in Spain] where all the places would be, and kept a journal of his progress, and who he walked with every day,” she said. “…He was a carpenter so he knew how to build something … so he built something that other people could latch onto — he created a container for this thriving community.”

Volker was born on Dec. 21, 1947, in Buffalo, New York, to Fred and Jean Volker, who came from Prussian, German and Polish immigrant stock. His only sibling, a sister, was stillborn in 1945.

Fred had served as a medic in Okinawa, the last major battle of World War II, and one of its bloodiest. In 1952, a few days before Phil’s fifth birthday, his father was severely injured and witnessed the murder of his employer in a brutal armed robbery in the shop where he worked as a jeweler.

After the crime, which was notorious at the time and resulted in the swift capture and execution of two of the three criminals involved, Phil’s father never worked again, making it necessary for Phil’s mother to enter the workforce to support the family.

Decades later, Graves said, Phil undertook a lengthy and methodical process of forgiving the third criminal, who was never caught and brought to justice for the crime that had so traumatized his family.

After graduating high school, Phil attended Syracuse University for one year — a short college career most notable for the fact that he formed a friendship with an older student, Joseph Biden, who was the resident advisor for his dorm.

At age 19, Phil enlisted in the Marines, serving from 1966 to 1969 at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, where he worked in radio communications and as a rifle coach. After military service, he embarked on a cross-country trip in a Dodge panel van with a friend, Geo Sheroke. The pair arrived on Vashon in 1972, in the midst of a snowstorm — a place where the friends both wound up settling down.

At a Vashon potluck in 1976, Phil met Rebecca Graves; she, too, had arrived on Vashon during a snowstorm, in 1975.

Their outdoor wedding, in 1978, was “the hippie-est wedding ever,” said Graves, who added that at the time of her marriage, she thought her husband was a “hippie art student at the University of Washington, with a ponytail.”

“It turned out he was a lot more than that,” she said.

The couple’s daughter, Tesia, was born in 1979; their son, Wiley, arrived a decade later.

In 1981, the family moved to a five-acre plot on Vashon’s south end, where Phil constructed a house around a small cabin on the property. Years later, the couple acquired an adjacent five-acre plot — creating the 10-acre parcel where Phil would later carve out his Camino.

Throughout his life, he worked as a landscaper, carpenter and subcontractor, while Rebecca worked as a preschool and substitute teacher, a therapist and freelance writer. She is now the author of two books, “That One Day in August,” and “Second Time Around.” Currently, she is working on a memoir of her long marriage to Phil, whose luminous last act of life made him a celebrity.

Phil’s final gathering with his admirers came on Oct. 9, the day before death, when O’Neil, the director of “Phil’s Camino,” organized a Zoom meeting, attended by more than 100 people, in which Volker was the special guest of honor.

Volker told the group, “Don’t fear dying. Fear not living every moment to the fullest.”

Phil’s son, Wiley Volker, who now lives on five acres of his family’s property, is now following in his father’s footsteps, walking daily on at least some portion of Phil’s Camino.

“It’s a sacred space,” Wiley said. “You can feel it when you walk.”

A funeral mass for Phil Volker will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, with a Rosary being recited at 10:30 a.m. prior to the Mass. He is survived by his wife, Rebecca Graves, of Vashon; daughter Tesia Elani, her husband, Ramon and their children, Freya and Osian, of Western Massachusetts; and his son, Wiley Volker, and his wife, Henna Volker, of Vashon. Wiley and Henna’s first child will be born in February.

The Volker family has plans to set up a Vashon High School graduate scholarship. Those who wish to donate may contact [email protected].