Vancouver's ‘Map Man’ remembered at service

Friends, family recall Phil Arnold’s humor, life lessons, talent

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor



The Map Foundation

The Map Foundation is dedicated to supporting education about maps, geography and cartographic arts, as well as community development, including parks, open space and community gardens in Vancouver. Donations may be made to sent to: The Map Foundation/PARC Fund, c/o 723 Eastside St. N.E., Olympia, WA, 98506.

The “Map Man” of Vancouver was eulogized Sunday, April 1, for his work, his love of community and his quirkiness.

More than 100 people watched projected photos that showed Phil Arnold at work as the recorded voice of the man described chapters in his life.

At one point, Phil, recorded at age 94, recounted how he decided to make a map in 1933. He said his first was printed in 1950, and he had a good laugh on himself.

Arnold died Jan. 14. He was 96.

Arnold’s maps were known by tens of thousands and he did his intricate work in the upstairs of his Hough neighborhood home.

He said he would traipse up and down the stairs often each day. “That’s one way I keep limbered up,” he said on the audio recording played for the service.

The memorial had sentimental touches, including his grandchildren reading from sayings that Arnold had on his walls. One is a New England maxim: “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without.” Fourteen quotes were in a booklet titled a “Compass for Life.”

The bouquet on the alter was dominated by 96 bananas.

“Phil ate approximately 40 pounds per week of bananas. Yes,” proclaimed the Rev. Jerry Keesee. He added that Arnold was a religious man: “He was armored with the armor of God.”

Keesee also said Arnold had a sense of humor that “before you knew it, you’d be laughing at yourself.”

Dan Tonkovich, who served as a Vancouver city councilman from 1990 to 2007, said he was told to visit with Phil and Helen Arnold before he started his first campaign. He said he did just that, seeking their counsel.

Phil was the first chairman of the Hough Neighborhood Association and Tonkovich lauded him for “strong contributions to the community.”

Phil’s daughter, Janice, said both she and her dad struggled with stuttering when young.

“I learned that by singing, I didn’t stutter,” she said. And then Janice and three friends broke into a song about a mapmaker. It delighted the audience. One line, complained of the confusion of Google maps and concluded, “Oh, make me an Arnold map.”

Janice, a noted textile artist who has exhibited in New York, was seated in the front pew next to a “soft-sculpture person.”

“He was wearing my dad’s overalls and my dad’s backpack and my dad’s favorite mask, which is a Reagan mask,” she said.

Explaining, Janice said, “My dad’s humor always had a twist.”

The soft man was just “a little bit of twisted Arnold humor,” she said, laughing.

Helen Arnold, 95, was not at the service, as she has been in the hospital. But Janice said her mom wanted the service on April 1 to celebrate Phil’s reputation as “a jokester.”

Phil and Helen met and later married at First United Methodist Church, where the service was held.

Friend Roland Michaud said Arnold was known for his “magnificent hair … and his firm handshake.” He added, “Integrity. The man had integrity.”

Speaking of Arnold’s legacy, Keesee said, “Everybody used Phil’s maps. Phil succeeded brilliantly in his career.”

The Vancouver City Council last month renamed a two-block stretch of Fourth Street to Phil Arnold Way. The mapmaker died while working on the 2012 Vancouver map.