Memories by members of the Friends of Harmony Hall:
Phil was a confidant of mine and his humane insight into the workings of local government helped us chart a course towards our mutual goals ...Thanks to Phil, FoHH can say that we are on the right track. He was a great humanitarian and preservationist.
~ Ken Linsner, President FoHH
I have been friends with Phil and
his family for over 30 years. Phil willingly gave his time and his counsel to the community and to his former students. Many students kept in touch and he was always there for them. He was a true friend and I will miss his ever optimistic soul.
~ Barbara Berntsen
Phil was the most civic-minded person I have ever known. For many decades he was intently involved in Sloatsburg and the Town of Ramapo with a ready smile and upbeat style promoting historic preservation, open space preservation, recreation facilities, libraries, and of course, public education. He was instrumental in saving Harmony Hall and helped the Friends of Harmony Hall get State and Town funding to get restoration underway. He attended most of our events and particularly enjoyed helping each year with the Annual Highlands Bluegrass Festival. ~ Geoff Welch
After graduating from Suffern High School and having a full life in Manhattan I found myself returning to Rockland County more frequently to visit my parents in Sloatsburg. It was October 2003 and as I glimpsed Harmony Hall sitting dark and empty on its knoll in the center of Sloatsburg. I was immediately motivated to determine the status of the house and site and commence advocating for saving an important part of Sloatsburg history.
Sloatsburg Historical Society President, Virginia Mahoney and OPRHP regional contact William Krattinger suggested reaching out to local schools and
organizations in an effort to engage them with the site as a potential community resource. This required many cold calls in process. It was at this time that I found myself on a serendipitous phone call with Phil Tisi as I attempted to garner local support and interest for the long forgotten historic house and site Harmony Hall-Jacob Sloat House.
When I got through to the then Suffern High School Principal I was put on speaker phone and Phil’s upbeat voice came into the conversation. Unbeknownst to me Phil held a position with the Town of Ramapo as confidential assistant to Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence. Phil advised me that Ramapo was involved in putting together a comprehensive Open Space acquisition program in an effort to address increasing loss of open spaces and important sites within the Town of Ramapo. Though a long time Sloatsburg resident, Phil was not familiar with Harmony Hall given that the house has been obscured from view by a mini mall in the village center and was known by another name serving for decades as an elder care facility.
From that day onward; certainly for the first three years of what became to be known as the Harmony Hall-Jacob Sloat Houses preservation/restoration, I was in touch with Phil weekly. I remain grateful to this day for a time when all concerned held an enthusiastic vision for the potential and importance of historic preservation and revitalization. I fondly recall Phil, Ed Lockwood then Director of Parks and myself attempting to secure meetings with the then site owner Dr. and Mrs. Almiron to view the house. Finally, on June 30, 2004 local preservationists and Town of Ramapo officials were given access to the house which was immediately described by William Krattinger, of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, as “entombed with most of the excellent architectural elements surviving!” This promising meeting was covered on that day by writer Nancy Cacioppo of The Journal News, and served to expedite the subsequent acquisition of the house and site and the formation of The Friends of Harmony Hall.
From the signing in May of 2006 to the present times Phil continued to be an advocate for Harmony Hall and helped in an ongoing practical way, to attempt to help the FOHH to move the project forward in collaboration with the Town of Ramapo. At the long -awaited lease signing at Harmony Hall on Sunday, November 3, 2019 a hopeful atmosphere permeated a joyous occasion for the FOHH, loyal members, Sloat descendants and preservationists. Phil and I shared a moment in the foyer acknowledging the years of advocacy, work and dedication by all concerned. In that exchange Phil reiterated that the best years lay ahead for Harmony Hall and expressed hope that another important historic site, Sidman’s in the Clove, would be saved as well.
Thank you Phil for what you were able to do, for attending the life blood of a not for profit aka: our many important fundraising events including Blue Grass and Victorian Holiday and for your always understated expressions of gratitude for the work of the FOHH. Phil would say at many events “The house/ place looks good”. Yes, Phil, year by year the house looks good and moves forward as a legacy to the people who have remained committed to preservation and revitalization in Sloatsburg and beyond. I will miss knowing you are in the preservation trenches with all of us, Phil, and your periodic sighs of exasperation but always willing effort to help.
The Friends of Harmony Hall express our sincere condolences to the Tisi family and his many friends and colleagues. May good memories and cherished times comfort the Tisi family now and in the day ahead.
We will miss you Phil, making time to come through the front door of Harmony Hall with a big smile and positive comments. Thank you.
~ Peter Bush