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February 29, 2000

Joe Ripley had a lifelong interest in sportsmanship and athletics in general. It was more than just a hobby; it also helped him shape a credo and philosophy for living, both on and off the field of play. It ruled his career as a businessman and it meshed well with his roles as a husband, father and churchman. He excelled at all of them.

Joe grew up in the shadow of the hills of Pawnee county where a town is named for one of his antecedents. As a young man, he pitched many exciting games for the old Perry semipro baseball teams, the Perry Oilers and the Perry Merchants, and he managed some of them when they were notching stirring wins at the local, district and state levels. He was a shrewd player and manager. As a pitcher, he knew a lot of the opposing batters through many seasons of playing with and against them. That enabled him to compile a mental file on their tendencies so he knew if they would fall for a curve, fastball, knuckler, or whatever, and he was right most of the time. Probably, no one knows his lifetime earned run average, but it must have been a stellar one. As a manager, he led many young players to levels of skill they didn't know they had. He enjoyed his years as leader of the Perry baseball teams and the opportunity that it gave him to continue at the game after his playing days were over.

Joe's occupation when he came to Perry was as a tire and automotive specialist at the old C&S Tire and Supply Store on the north side of the square, the two-story building now used by the Oklahoma Odd Fellows fraternal order as their state headquarters. He worked for the late Harold Scovill, who also loved sports and supported Joe in every way.

Well, there's so much more that could be said about this gentleman. He was a gifted golfer and, being a natural athlete, he probably would have been outstanding in any athletic endeavor. Betty, his wife, understood him well and shared in the moments of triumph as well as the low periods after a losing game. The pride of their lives were two strapping sons, Mickey and Ron, who had their own superior skills. Both were star athletes at Perry high school in football and wrestling, and Mickey was recruited as a passing quarterback at Oklahoma University. He later returned to PHS as head football coach.

Joe had an enduring interest in the Perry kids' baseball program, from T -ball through the upper American Legion and high school team levels, and the type of support he provided is one reason for the continuing success our town has enjoyed in all of them. Thank goodness he was on hand when Ripley Field was named in his honor. A more fitting tribute would be hard to find.

Joe would not be pleased with having all these things written about him. He did not covet publicity or personal glory in anything he did. It's tough to say goodbye to someone like Joe Ripley, but he will be remembered. His legacy will endure in this community as long as pee-wees or older youngsters can step up to the plate and hit a long one or make a diving grab for someone else's batted ball. Way to go, Joe.