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Updated Jun 5, 2014 - 11:51 am

Family gets big surprise during Mesa shopping spree

MESA, Ariz. -- It was a day to remember for one Valley family on Wednesday.

What was supposed to be a day of shopping and a special lunch turned out to be so much more.

Michelle Phillips was excited to be at the Bass Pro Shops store in Mesa. She was told that her sister-in-law had won a contest at Country Thunder, the country music festival in Florence, Ariz., and that a shopping spree at the store was part of the prize.

"They set it up that she won this thing at Bass Pro (Shops), and I got to come as her guest to watch it happen," Phillips said.

Phillips' entire family was invited, and as part of the "contest," they would get to have lunch with a surprise celebrity.

Some members of the family thought it might be a country music star, since the prize was won at Country Thunder. Others thought it would be comedian and actor Tim Allen, based on an Internet search that told them Allen was recently in the Phoenix area and is a spokesman for Bass Pro Shops.

"I was voting for 'Duck Dynasty,'" said Phillips. "When they said it would be a celebrity guest at Bass Pro (Shops), that's who I was voting for was anybody from the 'Duck Dynasty' cast."

Mesa Mayor Alex Mintor and City Councilman David Luna had the honor of revealing the "celebrity."

When the time came, it was no movie, music or TV star that stepped out when Luna opened the door. Instead, it was Phillips' husband, U.S. Navy Second Class Petty Officer Shawn Phillips, home after serving eight years in the military.

Phillips served in various places.

"I've been to Afghanistan, Bahrain, Japan, Maryland," he said.

He's spent the past two and a half years in Washington state, where Michelle has been able to visit him. But his three kids -- James, Sophie and Charlotte -- haven't seen their dad for several months. Now, he's home for good.

"I am so happy to be home," Phillips said. "I've missed everybody here -- my wife, my kids. Obviously, they've missed me a little bit, too."

His 8-year-old son James can vouch for that.

"He's been gone a long time," he said.

The surprise was all set up by Michelle's sister-in-law, after she learned Phillips was leaving the military.

Phillips' mom, Liz Calhoon, was in shock and crying after the surprise.

"I am in my seat and the councilman opens the door, and...there's my son!" she said. "I am so pleased that he is home. We're so proud of my son."

Phillips plans to go back to school and pursue a law enforcement career, but first, he wants some home cooking, while James wants some time with his dad.

"I want to go fishing," he said. "My dad has a little fishing boat."

As for Phillips wife, it doesn't look like she is too disappointed that she didn't get to meet any of the Robertson family from "Duck Dynasty."

And when asked who was better, Willie Robertson or her husband?

"Oh, my husband!" she laughed.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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