Basil A. Phucas, 55, Ge Executive Who Worked On Weather Satellites

Posted: August 03, 1988

Basil A. "Bill" Phucas, 55, a sensitive, perfection-minded executive at General Electric Co. who worked with major weather satellite projects, died Saturday, apparently after a heart attack, at his farm in Trevilians, Va., where he often spent weekends.

A resident of Wayne, Mr. Phucas spent the largest part of his 28-year career with GE at the company's Valley Forge plant, where most recently he was working as general manager of military and data systems operations.

In that position, he oversaw not only the 3,500 employees working in his division at Valley Forge but also an additional 1,500 at Virginia plants in Reston and Springfield and at a GE plant in San Jose, Calif.

"He was a strong leader with a lot of sensitivity and tenderness. He had the respect of the people who worked for him and his customers," said Jonathan Gispan, who worked for Mr. Phucas at GE for 10 years.

Reserved but friendly, with a strong eye for detail, Mr. Phucas started at GE in 1960, as an electronic design engineer at the company's Syracuse plant, and moved to Valley Forge in 1967.

In the ensuing years, he managed data systems and operations for the Nimbus weather satellite, the Landsat satellite and earth observation programs.

Mr. Phucas was named general manager of military programs, based at Valley Forge, in 1979 and was promoted to his last position in 1984.

"He was truly dedicated to his work," said his sister, Carole Mullins. ''It was seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Even when he spent a weekend at the shore, he'd have to take a seven-way conference call. He loved it. He thrived on it."

During his free hours, Mr. Phucas - a sturdily built man and a meticulous dresser - especially enjoyed spending time at the 333-acre farm he had purchased in Virginia two years ago.

Since boyhood, he had always wanted a farm. He spent nearly every weekend there with his wife, Evelyn. "He liked working in the fields, he liked trying to shoot things. It was relaxation he went for," Mullins said.

Described as a family man, Mr. Phucas also spent a number of hours restoring antique cars at the farm with his sons. He always made sure the family was together for holidays. He once initiated a family trip to Greece to visit the place where his father was born.

When Mr. Phucas was growing up, his mother won a Cadillac after a drawing at a church bazaar. She decided not to keep the car so that she could ensure there was enough money to put her children through school.

Years later, in 1984, Mr. Phucas unexpectedly drove up to his mother's home in Silver Spring, Md., with a black Cadillac Eldorado - tied in a red bow. It was his gift of thanks.

"She almost passed out," Mullins said, laughing.

In 1977, after considerable work at GE with government contracts, Mr. Phucas was awarded the Air Force certificate of significant achievement. He accepted it in the name of other GE employees he thought deserved recognition.

"He believed in recognizing people," Mullins said. "He thought people should be praised for jobs well-done. He was a caring person."

A native of Washington, D.C., Mr. Phucas graduated in 1960 from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and later took graduate courses at Johns Hopkins University. He was a member of the Eta Kappa Nu engineering honor fraternity.

A veteran of the Korean War, he served four years in the Air Force.

Surviving are his wife, Evelyn Robey Phucas; sons, Keith, Andrew, Philip and Nicholas; his parents, Andrew and Mabel Phucas; a brother, and two sisters.

Calling hours are from 7 to 9 p.m. today and services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the Hines Rinaldi Funeral Parlor, 11800 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring. Interment is at Fort Lincoln Cemetery, Brentwood, Md.

A memorial service is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Church of the Savior in Wayne.

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