Paul Ennis Ripley, 91, of Melbourne, Florida, died August 20th with family by his side.
He was born to the late Chester W. Ripley and Mary A. McKenna on September 19, 1926 in Sault Ste. Marie, MI. In 1951, Paul married Donna Mae Andersen who was also from the “Soo”. They raised their four children in Michigan and upon retirement, enjoyed travelling in their RV before relocating to Melbourne, FL.
Paul was a retired educator. During a forty-year career, he served in various positions including secondary school teacher, school principal and assistant to the Superintendent of Schools. For 25 years, he was a professor and administrator at two regional State Michigan Universities before retiring from Lake Superior State University. He came to Lake State in 1966, just as the institution was transitioning from the Sault Branch of the Michigan College of Mining and Technology to Lake Superior State College, a 4-year school in its own right. Paul served in several capacities – often concurrently – including Professor of journalism, Director of Information Services, Director of College Relations, Director of Alumni Relations and Director of Career Planning and Placement. He retired in 1987 after 22 years on Lake State’s campus.
Current LSSU Alumni Director Susan (Frohmader) Fitzpatrick ’87 remembers having Paul as an instructor for her journalism minor. “He was a terrific teacher,” she said. “Very engaging and enthusiastic, full of stories and practical tips from his own writing experiences. He made class fun, and we learned a lot, too. In our feature story writing class, he invited me to interview LSSU’s brand new president at the time, Dr. Erik Shaar. I was one of the first students to meet with the new president, and I got to ask him all sorts of questions. I was so excited, and so nervous! It was a really neat experience, one I wouldn’t have gotten if Mr. Ripley hadn’t given me the opportunity.”
When Susan became LSSU’s Alumni Director in 2006, Paul was one of the first people to congratulate her. “He was so supportive! He seemed genuinely happy for me, and right from the start he expressed great confidence in my ability to get the job done. At least once a year he would send a card or note telling me what a good job I was doing. He was so encouraging!” As the years went by, and Paul got older and walked more slowly, he would still make it a point to stop by Lukenda Alumni House and make his way up those stairs to Susan’s office to write out his annual membership check. “He never failed to tell me, ‘You’re doing a great job.’ Every time I saw him. I never saw him without a smile on his face. He was truly one of the nicest people I’ve ever known.”
He also served on several Boards of Directors supporting the fields of tourism, historic sites and substance abuse. Paul enjoyed journalism, photography, chess, billiards, baseball (especially the Detroit Tigers) and all the nuances of the English language. He was a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
He was a long-time member of Ascension Catholic Church in Melbourne, and also of St. Mary’s Parish while growing up and raising his family in the Soo.
Paul is survived by his children Mary (Gary) Horn of Melbourne, FL; Patricia (Bob) Kjolhede of Thompsonville, MI, and David Ripley of Sault Ste. Marie, MI. Paul is also survived by 10 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. Donna, his wife of 66 years, and his youngest child, Carol Ann Johnson, preceded him in death.
Paul’s daughter Patti writes:
A strong family connection to LSSU was a point of pride for my dad, with five generations attending: his mom, himself, Bob and I (and Bob’s brother Jim), our daughter Jamie (Andy) and our granddaughter Justice; as well as all of the “kids,” as he referred to all of us who attended Lake State over the years, and whom he grew to love. He still followed how everyone was doing… and was so proud of each success.
A funeral mass was held at Ascension Catholic Church in Melbourne on August 27. A proud Army veteran, he was interred at the national cemetery in Mims, Florida the following day. An additional memorial service to celebrate the lives of both Paul and Donna will be held next summer in Michigan.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Lake Superior University, Ascension Catholic Church in Melbourne or St. Francis Hospice of Melbourne. For LSSU, memorial gifts in memory of Paul Ripley can be directed to the LSSU Foundation office, designated for the Paul Ripley Alumni Legacy Award. The award, recently re-named in honor of Mr. Ripley, grants $1,000 each year to two students who meet the award criteria.