Written by Nancy Sokoler Steiner | Photographed by Vincent Rios
Phil Pavesi used to supervise 3,000 employees as a division general manager
at TRW. His wife, Christina, traveled to every continent as a flight attendant
for Delta. Now the retired couple fills their days with hands-on activities,
including supporting Torrance Memorial Medical Center.
Born and raised in a coal mining town outside Pittsburgh, Phil apprenticed
with his father, an electrician and plumber. From the time he was six
years old, Phil would spend his weekends and vacations accompanying his
dad on jobs.
He picked up more than the trades from his father. “I’ve had
20 years of schooling, and I learned 70% of how to be a success from my
dad,” Phil says. “He taught me a work ethic, honesty, fairness,
to treat all people with dignity. He taught me not to walk away from a
problem but to always tackle it and somehow it would work out.”
Phil’s work ethic soon became apparent. During his sophomore year
in high school, he enrolled in a 20-month electrical technician correspondence
course. He completed it in 11 months. After a short stint repairing television
sets, Phil got a degree in electrical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
In 1963, he headed west to Southern California for a job at North American
Aviation, where he worked on the XB-70 experimental trisonic bomber. Soon
he moved to TRW’s Space and Defense program, where he remained for
the duration of his career—with the exception of a stint at Stanford
to earn his graduate degree in industrial management.
At TRW Phil worked on a variety of projects, including earth-orbiting satellites,
interplanetary probes, space telescopes and spacecraft. The 10-hour days
were hectic, but he found it rewarding to interact with and supervise
such a diversity of employees, ranging from physicists to chemists to
engineers to manufacturing personnel.
“I was never bored,” he says. “Every day was different.”
Always one to continue learning, Phil also took night school classes at
UCLA to obtain his real estate broker’s license. He purchased and
operates apartment buildings along with his business partner, Virgil Bourgon,
who is also a Torrance Memorial Medical Center Patron.
In 1997 during a routine physical exam, Phil’s physician detected
a problem. He was diagnosed with an aggressive prostate cancer and went
to Torrance Memorial for treatment. Urologist Joy Paul, MD, performed
a radical prostatectomy, and radiation oncologist Thomas Simko, MD, supervised
Phil’s external beam radiation treatment.
“I credit Torrance Memorial for the first time of saving my life,”
says Phil, who joined the medical center’s Foundation board in 2005
after retiring. He continues to serve today and currently holds the role
of vice president.
Meanwhile, Christina, who traveled extensively during her 36 years as a
flight attendant, also became involved with Torrance Memorial after retiring.
She volunteers for the annual Holiday Festival, creating lavish decor
and decorating trees. A tree she designed with a nautical theme sold for
$5,000 in the live auction. A Parisian-themed tree fetched $5,500. Christina
also served as president of Las Amigas in 2018. Las Amigas is the group
of volunteers who create Holiday Festival each year. Together, Phil and
Christina have traveled to 57 countries and all seven continents.
Phil returned as a patient to Torrance Memorial in 2013. He had been exercising
on his treadmill and felt chest pressure. “I knew that was a bad
sign, so I called the hospital,” he says. In the emergency room,
Phil was diagnosed with a 90% blockage of his left anterior descending
artery, a condition often referred to as the “widow-maker”
due to its severity.
Interventional cardiologist Victoria Shin, MD, inserted a medicated stent
to clear and hold open the artery. She used an intravascular ultrasound
camera to assure the stent’s proper placement, equipment that was
purchased with a donation by Virgil Bourgon.
“Once again my life was saved by Torrance Memorial,” says Phil.
“I’m so appreciative. I live in a beautiful area served by
an excellent medical center in our neighborhood. Unless I need an organ
transplant, there’s no reason to leave the community for my care.”
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the professionalism, dignity and
empathy I’ve experienced during treatment, and friends have shared
similar experiences,” he adds. “Christina and I don’t
have children, so Torrance Memorial Medical Center will receive the bulk
of our estate upon our passing. If you want to benefit the biggest number
of people, it’s hard to imagine a better place than a hospital.”
Phil no longer works 10-hour days as he did during his years at TRW. Now
he and Christina fill their time with leisure activities, many of which
showcase their creative sides. Phil learned woodworking from his father
and today has a wood shop in his garage, where he enjoys working with
rare woods. The Pavesis’ home is graced by many of his creations,
including a floor-to-ceiling wine rack, a bar cart and an intricately
designed clock. He also built an electric organ, assembling it from 40,000 parts.
Christina sews, crafts and paints. Her holiday decorations and craft supplies
fill a 16-foot-by-20-foot shed on the couple’s property. She donated
two of her paintings to the Festival Gala auction.
The couple enjoy taking their RV on camping trips, visiting many California
destinations as well as Montana and Mount Rushmore. And they love spending
time on Jaguar, their 60-foot motor yacht. “It’s our home
away from home,” says Phil. “We’ll stay on it in the
summer, and we do a lot of entertaining there.”
They are happy to be in a position where they can make a difference with
their support of Torrance Memorial. “The culture is very positive,
consistently friendly, helpful and compassionate,” says Phil. It
sounds like he’s describing himself.