When Phillip Leishman passed away peacefully last week, surrounded by his wife, three children and siblings, he left family and friends in mourning for a truly special man. But the broadcaster has also left behind a huge legacy – because not only was he a popular face on TV for 40 years, but he was a pillar of support to many, including teen golfing superstar, Lydia Ko.
“Lydia and I first met Phil when The Golf Show did a story on her as a seven-year-old girl. Thanks to him, she has gone from strength to strength,” says Lydia’s golf coach Guy Wilson. “Phil was a huge fan of Lydia’s – he brought a little Korean girl that loved skipping and doing cartwheels on fairways to become the face of women’s golf.”
“Phil loved Lydia – He was determined to be the presenter at her homecoming in November, even though he was pretty sick by that point,” explains Phil’s close friend and business partner of 14 years, Kelsen Butler. “Deep down I think he knew it would be his last show, and it was important for him to sign off properly.”
Phil’s brother Mark, a host on radio station The Breeze, described the family man’s death last Tuesday as “very peaceful. Phil liked his music and we had the iPod on in the background so he could listen. The song that came on just before he passed away was ‘My Way’, from Frank Sinatra, just by absolute sheer fluke and it was kind of special. It sort of said it all.
“It’s very sad for us all – he was ill for a year, so we knew this day would come, but it’s always a shock. We’re still coming to terms with it,” adds Mark, who was with his brother in his final few days, along with Phil’s wife, Michelle, their three children, Harry, 20, India, 17, and Lily, 15, Michelle’s mother, Lesley, and his siblings, David and Gillian.
“The children are very strong – Lily would come home from school and sit by her dad doing her homework, and when it became really hard for Phil and he became immobile, they were there to lift him, support him and keep him company.”
While Phil was the face of many shows, including the Olympics and Commonwealth Games and his beloved Golf Show, many remember him best as the host of Wheel of Fortune in the 90s.
“Phil had a great story for every occasion,” remembers Lana Coc-Kroft, his assistant on the hit show. “He was clever and talented, the centre of attention at most events. People were drawn to him. He was a maker of friends and a friend to all.”
Phil will be remembered by many as a great talent, but for his family he was, quite simply, the best. Says Mark, “Phillip was lucky in one sense. Getting such a virulent disease was never part of the plan – he had everything to live for, and he was so sad on what he would miss out on, especially with his children. But if you can leave this world saying you were surrounded by a loyal, loving family, you’re pretty lucky.”