Amos Deacon Jr., of Phoenix International Systems, passes away

My first meeting with Amos Deacon Jr., founder of Phoenix International Systems, was in the mid-1990s at the old AFCEA Technet show in Washington. With his big booming voice, firm handshake, and arm around my shoulder he made an impression and made me a friend instantly during my first year in the military electronics industry. A more loyal friend in this business you could not find. Unfortunately we lost Amos and his big heart last month when he passed away from cancer at age 82.

Amos and his son Amos Deacon III, with whom he ran Phoenix International Systems, a maker of solutions, were fixtures, it seemed, at every military tech trade show during the last two decades. Both Deacon men were part of the extended family of the core group we had at Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine back in the nineties and most of the last decade. Wherever we traveled, stopping at the Phoenix booth felt like we were stopping at home, catching up with old friends.

A tough guy with a light touch, Amos would love teasing our late colleague Jerry Boyle, who retired in 2000 at the age of 80, for thwarting Amos’ plans to be the oldest guy in the industry. Amos eventually achieved that distinction and even in his late 60s founded another company, called the All-Terrain Vehicle Corp., which builds PROWLER multi-mission configurable Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle (LTATV) and Very Light Strike Vehicle (VLSV) for ground forces and law-enforcement applications.

My favorite memory of Amos is of him rolling one of the vehicles at the old COTSCon show our team at Military & Aerospace Electronics hosted. He had just started the company and sold one right on our show floor. Amos wore a big smile and scored another big win.

Paupers or kings, Amos could connect with anyone. He had a down-to-earth manner backed up by a top-notch mind. You may not know that he was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, his high school valedictorian, and a member of Mensa. Most of what I’ve learned about in military electronics I learned from Amos and his son.

Amos was born in Dunedin Isle, Florida, in a house on stilts in the Gulf of Mexico. He grew up in central Florida and Pennsylvania, graduating in 1951 as class valedictorian at Paradise High School in Pennsylvania, then heading off to Annapolis for the Naval Academy and then Lafayette College.

According to his family, Amos was hired by Hughes Aircraft Co. in 1962, relocated to Orange, California, where he got his MBA at the University of Southern California (USC), and was named to Beta Gamma Sigma, the highest honor given by the USC School of Business. Always the entrepreneur, Amos founded multiple enterprises including the establishment of MDB Systems, a pioneer in the minicomputer industry, before founding and All-Terrain Vehicle Corp. Amos also is a past president and board member of the Orange Park Association, past president of the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association (L.A. chapter), past board member of the Carpenter Irrigation District, a member of the Rancho California Caballeros, and a philanthropic supporter of the J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center, among others.

I’m grateful to have known Amos the last 20 years and to work with and learn from him. For those of you who never met Amos, I feel bad for you. But if you want to get a sense of what kind of man he was — the gentleman and the scholar — just meet his son Amos III. He is a true reflection of his father in each sense.

My former colleague, John Keller, also wrote a touching remembrance of Amos that speaks to his loyalty to his friends, titled “Remembering an old friend, Amos Deacon Jr., 1934-2015.

He is survived by his beloved wife of 60 years, Janet Eagleson Deacon; son and daughter-in-law Amos and Terry Hart Deacon of Orange; daughter and son-in-law Stephanie W.D. Aho and Toivo Aho, and grandchildren Raymond and Trevor Jenkins and Connor and Malia Aho, all of Irvine; his brother Jack Deacon of Murrieta; and sister Barbara Eckert of Extor, Pennsylvania.

In lieu of flowers, the Deacon family suggest donations be made to the Wounded Warrior Project. To donate, click here.