By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Philip E. Funk is quite a survivor, and not just because at age 92 he still shows up for work 20 hours a week at the town of Front Royal's recycling center.
Luck was with him when a passing freight locomotive hit his car in September and nearly took his life only a few yards from his workplace, a tiny guardhouse at the entrance to the recycling center.
Few live to tell others of such an experience, but Funk is one of them.
His spoke with a hint of wonderment about his brush with death as he recently recalled the moments after the train barreled into the front of his car at the intersection of Manassas Avenue and Sixth Street.
"It clipped the front of the car," Funk said. "It put the transmission in the motor. It popped the radio in my lap."
The collision occurred just after 1 p.m. Funk had left his job at the recycling center and was heading toward Seventh Street at about 10 mph when the locomotive appeared to the right, heading toward his 1994 Buick Century. The eastbound train's impact, at a speed later estimated to be 22 mph, threw Funk and his car about 100 feet east before coming to a rest along a fence owned by the town.
His friend and co-worker, Art Hisserman, had just replaced Funk at the guardhouse. He remembers the accident vividly.
"I looked up and saw the car by the fence," Hisserman said, and then exclaimed and called 911.
Funk said he stayed conscious throughout the ordeal. His pelvis was broken. His liver was filling with blood. His arm was badly scraped. But he was alive.
"It's a wonder I didn't get hurt more than that," Funk said. "They found my glasses on the second step of the train."
Hisserman was also astonished to find Funk had survived, an outcome he attributed to Funk wearing a seat belt.
"That seat belt saved him, I'm sure," Hisserman said.
Funk blames himself for what happened. After the accident, he met with a representative of the Norfolk Southern railroad and told him he would not be filing a lawsuit.
"I said, 'Why should I try to sue because of my own dumbness?'" Funk recalled.
He took a while to recover from his injuries while staying at a long term care center at Warren Memorial Hospital and his home on Long Meadow Road in Middletown. But four months later he was back on the job.
Town manager Steve Burke said the town kept in contact with Funk through his family as his injuries healed.
"Based on input we received from his family, we expected him to return to work, so we filled his position with a temporary worker until he was ready to resume his job," Burke said.
Funk said he had no doubts about wanting to return to work, especially after his two doctors at the Veterans Administration discouraged him from changing a routine that has allowed him to fend off the worst effects of old age.
"They said, 'keep doing what you're doing,'" Funk said. "If you sit down, that will be it."
Funk has worked with the town for 27 years, the last 13 at the recycling center. His job is to keep a log of the cars coming and going from the center and checking them for proper residency identification. The railroad tracks he has been crossing on his way to and from work since 1999 are still there, but the traumatic lesson from the crash has made him more cautious than ever as he approaches the intersection.
Everything else has remained the same, he said. He is still Philip Funk, doing his job the way he always has: steady, reliable, and above all, resilient.