Philip William Dempewolf, 78

Philip William Dempewolf, 78

Philip William Dempewolf, 78, passed away at his Bonita, California home on May 25, 2020 after battling lung cancer.

Born in 1942 in Bellevue, Iowa, Philip studied engineering at Iowa State University and joined the Navy as an aviator.  Stationed in San Diego, California, he flew F-8 Crusaders, deployed to Vietnam on the USS Hancock and USS Bon Homme Richard, and earned a Distinguished Flying Cross.  After the war, Philip was based in Kingsville, Texas as an F-4 instructor pilot in the Navy Reserves, flying regularly to Miramar.  He met Sandra Lemen at a dance at the MCRD in Point Loma in 1966.  After several years of romance and courtship, they married on June 26, 1971.  Philip studied law at the University of San Diego and earned a Doctor of Jurisdiction in 1976.

In 1974, Philip became a commercial airline pilot and flew with PSA and US Airways for over 28 years.  He explored Hawaii, Europe, and New Zealand with his family, fostering in them a love of travel.  Philip retired from the airlines at age 60 and over the next 18 years, he and Sandra took cruises, regularly visited many countries in Europe, and established an annual tradition of spending time on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Philip volunteered with Meals on Wheels for 10 years and actively participated in the Native Plant Society of California, incorporating many species into his home gardens.  He enjoyed coaching his children’s sports teams, supporting their musical performances, reading good books, and attending the theater and cinema. His independent nature inspired him to conquer many projects on his own including landscaping the yard, repairing the car and home, building a children’s clubhouse, arranging travel excursions, and learning Spanish.  Always athletic, Philip ran the San Diego Marathon, crossed Iowa in the RAGBRAI bicycle race and walked the neighborhoods of San Diego each Sunday, learning more about architecture, horticulture, and history.  He had a wry sense of humor, a practical outlook on life, and a very generous heart.

Philip is survived by his wife, Sandra Dempewolf; his daughter, Gretchen Dempewolf (David Toplon); his son, Geoffrey Dempewolf (Megan Dempewolf); and his grandson, Marcus Dempewolf.  He will be buried with Sandra’s family in Greenmount Cemetery in Dansville, New York.  Memories and condolences can be written in Philip’s online guest book at or directed to Sandra at  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to:

Seasons Hospice Foundation:

Native Plant Society of California:

Father Joe’s Village:

American Cancer Society: