Phillips leaves a legacy, inspiring family to celebrate the season Dewey-style

Dewey's Toys for Kids volunteers are making the rounds raising money to give back to those in need one last time.

He never met a stranger and more times than his family members can remember, when someone was in dire straights and needed a helping hand, Dewey Phillips was there. Among his friends and family, Dewey will always be remembered for his big heart. Dewey passed away recently but left a legacy that is inspiring his family and friends to celebrate the season Dewey-style. 

Dewey’s Toys for Kids will return for 2020 as a tribute to him and the joy he experienced giving back to others. 

Many around the lake area may remember Dewey as the guy behind the neighborhood bar, always cordial and shooting the breeze with customers. He was always known simply as Dewey. Others who may not have known him might recognize the Dewey’s Toys for Kids organization he started decades ago to help others during the holidays and provide scholarships to lake area high school students. 

Over the years, Dewey and an active core group of volunteers raised money, always focusing on helping others. Literally, thousands of families and children were the beneficiaries of their hard work and dedication to their cause. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised over the years, it all went directly to families or scholarships. Many lake area bars and restaurants got involved and helped out as the organization grew. 

Unfortunately in 2018, Dewey, at 84-years-old, and his core group of volunteers had reached the age of true retirement and Dewey’s Toys for Kids held their last fundraising and gift drive. That year they helped nearly 150 kids experience the excitement of the holidays with gifts, food and necessities that they often did without. For Dewey, it was a difficult and heartbreaking decision but volunteers were getting scarce and many of those who had helped for years were no longer able to get around or had passed away. 

Dewey’s Toys for Kids started way back in 1988. At the time, he owned Dewey’s Lounge in Osage Beach. It drew a large crowd of locals and one year during the holiday season, a customer was visiting with Dewey and starting telling the story of a family he knew who had fallen on a hard time. There were 3 kids at home and the chances of the family having anything extra for Christmas were grim. Phillips has spent years involved with the Toys for Tots before moving from California to Lake of the Ozarks. 

It began with customers having to drop money in a curse jar. Then customers started taping dollar bills to the bar and it grew from there. The first year they raised $200 for the family. After he closed Dewey’s, he opened another bar down the road. Wherever he went. Dewey’s Toys for Kids went. Even after retiring to travel with his wife of more than 50 years, Dewey’s Toys for Kids was a priority. 

Phillips’ parents were from St. Louis and as he and his family would drive through Lake of the Ozarks on trips from California, he decided one day his dream was to own a bar at the lake. When he took early retirement he decided to pursue his dream. 

He came to the Lake by way of California. Born in Arkansas, his parents moved to Illinois when he was young. In 1953 he joined the Army and found himself as a paratrooper in the Korean War. After honorably serving his country, he landed in Southern California where he began his career at Econolite designing traffic lights and met Ann McGill, the woman Phillips would always refer to as the love of his life. When he passed away, the couple had been married for more than 50 years and shared two daughters. 

Although Dewey was humble, his daughter Brandi Phillips, said he was proud of all the good Dewey’s Toys for Kids had one and of the students who had received money to continue their education. 

“It was something he was immensely proud of. He loved helping people, but especially the kids. His largest year helped over 216 families with Christmas. He loved being around his family and friends and was always up for a good time. He had a great love for animals and was especially fond of his dogs,” she said of her father. “He was the kindest, most generous, and selfless person there ever was. He loved baseball and football, specifically the Cardinals and the Chief’s.”

The best part was the gratitude and appreciation the parents had for the help they received. Sometimes people really struggle and the holidays can be tough, she said. 

If you asked her dad what made it worth it, Brandi said he would say the kids. 

“He loved the happiness and excitement of the kids when they received a gift they hadn’t expected,” she said. 

And it is in that spirit that Brandi, her mom and sister, Jackie Phillips and other family members and friends have decided to celebrate Dewey and his memory with one last Dewey’s Toys for Kids. 

For more information on how to contribute or get involved contact