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Archive date:  March 27, 2012

My Uncle Joe

The greatest man I have ever known -

For those of you who have been kind enough to read this newsletter for a while; you know I occasionally trail off the gardening path. Today is one of those side-trips…and perhaps it’s not.

Joseph W. Tripp Jr. was no ordinary man. To the casual observer, he would appear to be precisely that; ordinary. Born in October of 1920, Uncle Joe was one of the special breed of selfless young men who went away in service of country in WWII. As a Navy Seabee, he traveled building roads and repairing landing strips. Sometimes these air bases were on pieces of ground barely large enough to land a plane. A task he was well suited for; a task most of us would deem impossible.

After the military, Uncle Joe then worked for L & N Railroad for 30 years as an electrician. Another task for which he was well suited. Uncle Joe could fix anything. I have never known anyone who could take something apart that he had no prior familiarity with, which had ceased to function, diagnose the problem, repair and improve the designed functionality, put it back together and it work better than it did before.

After Uncle Joe retired, he became an avid gardener. He developed gardening techniques now deemed “cutting-edge”. His gardening concepts, often thought of as new approaches to producing food crops today, were run-of-the-mill for Joe Tripp. He was growing vast amounts of produce from a few raised beds decades ago. He utilized close-cropping, vertical-gardening and cold frame practices. Sustainability was always his rule-of-thumb; though he probably wouldn’t have called it that. He did it simply because it made sense to him; it would never have occurred to him to do otherwise. He composted. He captured, filtered and stored runoff water from his downspouts in a cleaned and re-purposed septic tank. He utilized Israeli drip irrigation with solenoid controls…I could expand the list nearly ad infinitum.

These are but a few of the things Uncle Joe did and could do, but it wasn’t who or what he was. He was a giver of himself. He was a keen investor… in the lives of others. He made everyone he touched feel special. Everyone. Whatever qualities of character I might possess are simply the reflection of Joe Tripp. It is not my intention to put him on a pedestal; he would not want that. In my mind, he stands head and shoulders above any man I have ever known. You see, I am one of the fortunate few; I got to grow up knowing, admiring… adoring, my Uncle Joe.

David Bates

On Wednesday, we laid Uncle Joe to rest. He is survived by my Aunt Frances, wife of 67 years, 4 daughters, 12 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild.