Olympic organizer Phil Wolff dies at 95

Olympic organizer Phil Wolff dies at 95

Published Feb. 4, 2011 11:34 a.m. ET

Phil Wolff, chief of staff of the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee, has died. He was 95.

Stephen Wolff said his grandfather collapsed and died Thursday at his second home in San Diego, though he did not specify the cause of the death. Philip Wolff also had a home in Saranac Lake.

Wolff was the oldest living licensed bobsled driver and founder of the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum. He was a member of the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympic bid committees.

In 1978, he was appointed chief of staff of the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Organizing Committee, a position he held until its closure in 1987, volunteering his time during the last three years of that assignment. He also served as chief of the security committee for the 1980 Winter Games.


''Phil made a lasting impact by preserving the Olympic history of two Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid,'' said Scott Blackmun, Chief Executive Officer of the USOC. ''He built relationships acting as a conduit between the local community and the Olympic Family.''

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., on Oct. 19, 1915, Wolff made his first visit to Saranac Lake in 1928 and fell in love with the Adirondack Mountains. He attended Cornell University, took a year off from college to design and construct Saranac Lake's Riverside Park in 1937, and graduated the next year with a degree in landscape architecture.

''The Olympic Movement is sad to hear about the death of Phil Wolff. Phil was instrumental to two successful Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid and a fervent supporter of the Olympic Games and their values throughout his life. We convey our sympathy to his family,'' the IOC said in a statement.

Wolff and Elsie Hughes married in 1940 and opened a greenhouse in Ray Brook and a florist shop in Saranac Lake, which operated for 40 years. He served in the Army Corps of Engineers in the South Pacific from 1943-45 and was among the troops sent to occupy Japan, visiting ground zero in Nagasaki just six weeks after it was destroyed by an atomic bomb. He received the Purple Heart, Silver Star and other citations before returning to Saranac Lake and served an additional 17 years as an Army Reserve officer, starting an Army Reserve unit at Paul Smith's College.

Wolff served as president of Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club and was a member of the Town Board of North Elba, chairman of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, and a member of the Northwood School board of directors.

He also was elected town justice of the Town of North Elba in 1960 and served for 18 years, performing many marriages, including those of his children.

Inducted into the Lake Placid Hall of Fame in 2002, Wolff also was a founding member and treasurer of AdkAction.org, an Adirondack advocacy group started in 2006. He is survived by his wife, three children, and four grandchildren.

A funeral was being planned in Saranac Lake during the summer, the family said.