Recalling colleague and friend

What does one do when a friend and colleague for more than 50 years dies?

I think the best thing to do is to remember all of the good that person has done and how it has made one’s life better.

This week I am remembering my friend and colleague Don R.Wipf, who was living in Rogers, Ark., with wife Phyllis in an independent living senior community for about the past two years.

Don had been in dialysis for three days a week. He died Saturday, Dec. 30.

He would always spell his last name. “W I P, like Paul, F like Frank.

Don and I met in the early ’60s when he was at Tabor College working at the Hillsboro Star-Journal. He had no fear and I admired him a great deal for that.

It was at Tabor that he met his wife of 48 years, Phyllis Deutschendorf. She was a great friend of ours back then and still is today.

Don is the reason we have lived in Hillsboro for the past 40 years. When I was the production manager of the Wichita Sun back in the mid-70s, it went out of business in 1977 and the first call I received was from Don asking if I wanted to move back to Hillsboro and take the production manager position at the Star-Journal. He and Phyllis had a stake in the newspaper and were making those types of decisions then.

The Wipfs were the best newspaper people I had ever run into—and they never took any short cuts to make their jobs easier.

I worked for Don in the late ’70s and he worked for me in the early years of the Free Press. He gave us his all until he retired in the mid-2000s. When we bought the Hesston Record in 2004, he shifted his efforts from Hillsboro to Hesston. He commuted from Wich­ita, so Hesston was a shorter drive for him. At that time Phyllis was teaching at Maize High School.

During those years we met them many times for dinner in Wichita, and they would drive here for the Low German Buffet at Olde Towne. We met many times at the Cotillion in Wichita to hear Mike Finnigan, a favorite of both of ours since the Early Bird Cafe days; Kelly Hunt and Delbert McClinton. Plus, Finnigan at the Wichita River Festival.

The Wipfs’ kids and ours were about the same age so they also hung out together in the Hillsboro days.

Don was hit with kidney cancer about 12 years ago and spent the past nine years on dialysis three days per week. He called it his part-time job. What a retirement! He also had issues with diabetes and his body finally said no more at the end of last year.

We will miss his humor and seeing him. I know Phyllis, his kids and their spouses and grandkids miss him a lot already.

If you wish to share your comments or ideas, my e-mail address is joel@
hillsborofreepress.com.