Phil Citta’s 69th birthday is Sunday and he of course won’t be around to see it. Or will he?

8th annual Phil Citta Memorial Fundraiser poster (The Office via Facebook)

Let’s face it, nine years after he lost his life to pancreatic cancer I still walk into The Office Restaurant & Lounge in Toms River and think of it as Phil’s place.

Part of me still expects to see him standing behind the little host stand with a Tommy Bahama shirt on and his reading glasses dangled around his neck.  However I will have to settle for memories of a true character that had this way of always bringing a smile to my face.

Phil’s spirit lives at The Office every day and it really comes alive around the time of his birthday when staff, family and friends celebrate the life he lived with the goal of helping others live to see many more birthdays.  Tomorrow is the 8th Annual Phil Citta Memorial Fundraiser, an all-day, all-night event to benefit cancer research at Community Medical Center, a health-care facility that has always been near and dear to the Citta family.

After Phil died the family made a $1 million donation to establish the J. Phillip Citta Regional Cancer Center which offers the latest in treatment services for patients and their families and allows Ocean County residents to stay at home for top-notch cancer care.

The staff of The Office has followed up on that initial donation by hosting an annual fundraiser around the time of Phil’s birthday and the first seven of them have resulted in donations totaling more than $141,000 in the on-going fight against a horrible disease.

Tomorrow’s event will feature giveaways, raffles and more with a portion of the entire day’s proceeds to benefit the cancer center at Community.  If you stop in at some point don’t be surprised if you get a feeling that Phil is there. After all he was the last guy who wanted to miss a good party.