Passing of an Optimist

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Phil Infelise (left) speaks to incoming members of the Japanese American Optimist Club of Los Angeles at their installation in September 2013. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

Phil Infelise (left) speaks to incoming members of the Japanese American Optimist Club of Los Angeles at their installation in September 2013. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

Phil Infelise, a longtime supporter of Japanese American Optimist clubs, died in a car collision on May 24 in North Long Beach. He was 89.

The Long Beach Press Telegram reported that the accident occurred in Long Beach at the intersection of South Street and Downey Avenue at 1:46 p.m., when the car Infelise was driving was struck by an eastbound car. The occupant of the other car, a 19-year-old Compton resident, was uninjured. An investigation is ongoing. Infelise was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 3 p.m.

Phil Infelise

Phil Infelise

Infelise was the elected governor of the Optimist International Pacific Southwest District in 1966 during the chartering of the Suburban Optimist Club in Buena Park.

“He was Mr. Optimist,” said Bob Wada, charter president of the Suburban Optimist Club. “He was the one guy from Optimist International that really helped us form our club. Phil has been really good to us. He used to come to every one of our youth recognition nights.”

For decades Infelise was an active supporter of Japanese American Optimists, sharing his wisdom and optimistic spirit at many events over the years. Optimist International is an association of more than 2,600 clubs dedicated to improving the lives of youth by providing hope and a positive vision.

Infelise joined Optimist International in 1955 and served on the Board of Directors of Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services for over 50 years.

Upon his return from World War II, Infelise began a long career in the banking industry working at various banks, including Crocker Bank, Bank of America, Garfield Bank and Queen City Bank, where he opened a branch in Bixby Knolls.

Infelise began a second career in the city of Long Beach as an unpaid community volunteer in 1985 when he was appointed to the Neighborhood Improvement Commission. That was followed by chairmanship of a committee which helped keep the Queen Mary in Long Beach. He then was elected chairman of the Queensway Bay Project, which led to construction of the Aquarium of the Pacific and what is now the Pike Development.

Funeral services and a Mass were held May 31 at St. Maria Goretti Church in Long Beach, followed by burial at All Souls Cemetery. The family is also planning a memorial service at a later date.

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