Phil Scholz was the kind of guy who always reached out to help others.
"If someone were on the side of the road, he would stop and say, 'Do you need a cell phone? What's the problem?'" his wife Emily remembered.
So it was in character Jan. 20 at the train station in Santa Clara when Phil, a Pleasanton resident who had been commuting on ACE for seven years, rushed to help a man on the tracks. Video cameras recorded Phil dropping his backpack and lying on the platform, extending his arms to the man over the 4-foot drop.
But too soon the express train came hurtling through the station and struck both men: Phil was killed; the other man was hospitalized but recovered.
"I was able to confirm it was a suicide attempt," Emily said. "Phil had been telling him to get off the tracks -- he ended up essentially changing his mind; he did make a move to get off the tracks."
Phil did not know the man, only that he was in danger.
"I can see Phil doing that," Emily said. "The whole situation is still shocking, but I can't imagine he would have just stood there and let something happen."
The couple met as students at Santa Clara University. They were in the same circle of friends but only began to date after college.
"We had the same goals," Emily recalled. "We were both staying in the Bay Area, we had the same hobbies and whatnot."
This included hiking, wine tasting, and playing softball and kickball on teams together. They also shared a love of animals, eventually adopting a black Cocker Spaniel they named Poppy, and three cats (Minty, Salty and Olive).
Pleasanton was a good central location for them, they decided 10 years ago, as he commuted to a computer graphics company in Santa Clara, and she worked in San Ramon.
"Once we got here, we realized Pleasanton was great -- we would never consider living any place else," Emily said. "I have a fantastic neighborhood -- they're being very supportive."
She and Phil dated about four years, Emily said, and knew they would marry but didn't want a big wedding.
"We had a vacation planned to Hawaii and at the last minute knew we wanted to have an elopement," she said.
"Luckily it's really easy to get married in Hawaii," she added with a laugh.
They contacted the hotel to include a wedding package and were told, "We have Thursday available," so their anniversary is April 28.
"This year close friends came down and spent the weekend with me," Emily said.
Since Phil was only 35 when he died, they hadn't thought about memorials, she noted. But a lawyer friend helped her set up the Philip Scholz Memorial Foundation.
"We are finding ways to remember him, which is comforting," Emily said. "A big thing is the Pleasanton Ridge Park; in the past few years they have acquired some land, and we want to make a contribution."
She, Phil and Poppy were frequent users of the dog-friendly trails, so she is hoping to help finance a trail to be named in Phil's honor.
"For me it's honestly nice to have something to focus my energies on," Emily said. "And it's nice that there is going to be something out there that's going to bear his name, and people will think about him and remember who he was."
On his birthday last month, about 60 friends and family members gathered at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont to dedicate a bench, donated by a longtime family friend. The plaque reads: "A reflection bench dedicated to the great life of Phil Scholz, taken too soon but forever loved and remembered. Oct. 5, 1978-Jan. 20, 2014."
"I'm hoping with the bench and the trail, and having an annual hike, just to get outdoors and enjoy the place that Phil would have enjoyed," Emily said. "It's something to connect us."
At the dedication, friends from all aspects of Phil's life met each other.
"To get these groups together and intermingle has been really cool," Emily said. "Folks are now friends and correspondents because of meeting through Phil even though he's not here. It's a neat way for his legacy to live on."
* Phil grew up outside Seattle but didn't like the weather. "He came to California and never looked back," his wife Emily said.
* Phil named their second cat Salty, to go with the food name of their first cat, Minty.
* Emily said she is thankful for the companionship of their four pets although they might be considered too many for a single person.
* Phil and Emily had a membership to the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) and had registered for the 2014 Trails Challenge.
* Phil made regular blood donations to the Stanford Blood Center and was on the bone marrow donor registry list.
* The American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter recognized Phil as one of its 2014 Act of Courage heroes.
* Donations to Phil's favorite causes include the Valley Humane Society, local Red Cross chapter, EBRPD and Baseball Buddies in San Jose, which sends equipment to kids in developing countries.