Friday, July 4, 2008

Bruce Tipton

October 15, 1931
June 28, 1995

On this July 4th, I remember another July Fourth holiday thirteen years ago. On July 3rd of that year my Uncle Bruce Tipton was laid to rest. The following is a writeup I did of his viewing, and funeral service. Please accept my apologies for any awkward grammar as I did write that thirteen years ago. My writing skills have since improved due to the diligence and kind help of my sister-in-law, Barbara Tipton. However, the narrative you are about to read will give you the flavor of the day and a feeling for the personality of the much loved man who was my Uncle Bruce.

Monday, July 3, 1995. . . a perfect summer day in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. At 10:00 a.m., the temperature was already 75 degrees. The sky was bright, sparkling, and clear. Humidity was low, a break from the previous week’s high humidity. The old Lincoln Highway (U. S. Route 30) in front of the Ralston & Bredickas Funeral Home at 107 West Lancaster Avenue was heavy with traffic. Townspeople were going about their daily routines, passing each other on the sidewalk in front of the funeral home. As Bruce’s friends and relatives were turning their vehicles into the funeral home parking lot, an attendant asked each driver if they were going to the cemetery. If they were, the attendant took their car keys, parked their vehicle and placed a small orange “Funeral” flap on top of their vehicle, above the driver’s side window. If not, he motioned for them to park at the other side of the parking lot. Stepping out of the summer sun into the cool and quiet funeral home was like entering a different dimension. Visitors had already taken seats in the room where Bruce lay at rest in an open casket. Funeral services were to begin at 11:00 a.m.

Bruce Tipton died at the Elsmere Veterans Administration Medical Center located in Elsemere, Delaware. He entered the hospital approximately three months earlier ago for an operation for an aneurysm. The operation was not successful and Bruce’s kidneys failed. For three months, his health steadily deteriorated. Bruce could not speak because he had a feeding tube down his throat. At approximately 3 a.m., in the morning of Wednesday, June 28, 1995, Bruce Tipton died of pneumonia.

Bruce Tipton now lay at rest in an open casket at the Ralston & Bredickas Funeral home. Bruce was surrounded by an array of colorful and beautiful flowers. He looked peaceful lying in his casket, almost serene. He looked younger than his 63 years. As with all Tipton men, he had little gray hair. His hair was neatly combed. He didn’t have his trademark crew cut style that we wore in his latter years. He wore glasses and had a small moustache (something else none of us remembered.) Uncle Bruce was also wearing a suit, something he rarely wore, if at all, during his whole life. Uncle Bruce looked rather distinguished. He had a look now that was a long way from his humble beginnings as a child of the Depression.

Uncle Bruce was the 10 of 12 children (all boys, one twin died early) of Fieldon Jacob (June 4, 1884 – May 8, 1939) and Hester Lewis Tipton (November 30, 1892 – April 20, 1945) . Uncle Bruce’s nine older brothers were all born in the hills of western North Carolina, that border the Tennessee border. Only he and his younger brother Sam (Samuel Park Tipton) were born in the North (West Chester, Pennsylvania). Bruce and his brother Sam were born in poverty and orphaned when they were still young children (Bruce at 14 and Sam at 11.) Bruce and Sam lived with different brother’s families until they left home and joined the service (Bruce the Army and Sam the Air Force). This continued the Tipton tradition of taking care of family. When Fieldon Tipton died in 1939, his widow Hester lived with the families of her various sons.

Uncle Bruce struggled financially most of his life and never attained any of the conventional measures of success such as job titles and material wealth. After 30 years, Bruce saw his job at Gindy Manufacturing (trailers) disappear as a result of a corporate takeover. His one marriage to Irene Hostetter was not successful. He lived most of his life as a bachelor. He did not have any children of his own, the only Tipton brother not to have a naturally born child. He did adopt his wife’s daughter, Sharon. However, by any measure Bruce Tipton had a very successful life. He was happy, contented and well respected by all who came into contact with him. After he left Gindys, Bruce started his own business. It was called the Bruce Tipton Catering service. He served barbecues, pig roasts and picnics to many local organizations, including the VFW, Moose, and various fire companies, and Fraternal Order of the Police. He also catered private parties included the 1st annual Tipton Family Reunion held in October of 1993. Bruce Tipton was well known and liked in the community. He was known as a loyal friend who had a great sense of humor. Who among us who knew Bruce Tipton can think of him without a smile on our face? Who can forget his gentle laugh? A good example of Bruce Tipton humor is when I asked him what his middle name was. Bruce replied “I don’t have one; they ran out of them when they came to me.” Bruce Tipton led a happy, full, and productive life and left us much too soon.

On Sunday, July 2, 1995 a viewing was held for friends and family at the funeral home. All the surviving brothers attended . . . . Uncle Ed and his wife Mabel. . . my Father Ike and my Mother Betty. . . Uncle Tip and his wife Lois. . . and Uncle Sam (who grew up with his older brother Bruce and the only other Pennsylvania born Tipton) and his wife Shelby. The widows of the other Tipton brothers were also in attendance. They are Mrs. Henry Tipton (Aunt Peg), Mr. Samuel Bruno (Uncle John Tipton’s widow Aunt Peggy), and Mr. Raymond Tipton (Aunt Katy). The Gouge Family was also present. They are the surviving children of Abigail and David gouge. Aunt Abby (as the Tipton brothers called her) was their Father Fieldon’s older sister who moved to Pennsylvania in the late 1920’s along with her family.) Aunt Abby’s sons Hoy Gouge and his wife Annabelle, Nels and his wife, Lonz and his wife, and Elsie Gouge Kilby were also at the viewing, paying their respects to their cousin Bruce Tipton. Many nieces and nephews were also there to say goodbye to their Uncle Bruce. Bruce’s many friends fron his social organizations of the Loyal Order of the Moose 1153 and the Brandywine Post 845, St. Anthony’s Lodge, the Thorndale Fire Company, the Chester County Fraternal Order of the Police 11, and the Police Chiefs Association also paid their last respects to their dear and loyal friend with whom they enjoyed many hours of camaraderie. Uncle Bruce’s longtime friend Pete Roop was also there with Bruce for the last time. Bruce and Pete had been friends since childhood.

Many of us recalled our memories of Uncle Bruce. Cousin Bud (Edward Walter Tipton, Jr.) remembered the new Buick Uncle Bruce arrived in one day at the old Baker place where Uncle Ed and Aunt Mabel and family (Bud’s parents) used to live. Cousin Bud said he hasn’t seen a car like that since. The luxurious leather seats, the smooth ride, greatly impressed Uncle Bruce’s young nephew who dreamed that maybe someday he would also be able to get a car like his Uncle Bruce (he did). Cousin Sis (Joan Tipton) remembered the time that Uncle Bruce accidentally tipped both of us (yes, me – I was a baby at one time – cousin Sis – who is the twin of cousin Bud – and I are the same age) out of a baby carriage when he was babysitting us one time. I don’t remember that particular incident but have been told about it many times by my Mother. She claims Uncle Bruce “dropped me on my head” which may explain some of my decisions and actions later in my life (a little “Mom” humor here). However, I do remember very clearly babysitting Uncle Bruce’s 5 year old adopted daughter (his wife Irene’s daughter) when I was 17 years old. Babysitting doesn’t come naturally to me, so I was not happy about this chore. A 17 year old young man has better things to occupy his time with (or at least I thought so at that time). My brother John remembers his Uncle Bruce buying him an ice cream cone from Ricky the Ice Cream Man (back in the Fifties it was common for someone like Ricky to travel around the poor areas in his panel truck, ringing his bell and selling ice cream – oh how we all loved to hear that bell on those hot summer days) shortly after Bruce had been discharged from his Army service and lived with us for a short while at our apartment over the Gindy offices. Most attending Uncle Bruce’s viewing had their own special memories of Bruce which they fondly replayed again in their minds. It was still hard to believe that Uncle Bruce was no longer with us.

On this perfect summer day of Monday, July 3, 1995, we would be saying goodbye to Bruce for the final time. How appropriate that Bruce Tipton would be making his final journey approaching the Fourth of July holiday. Much of Uncle Bruce’s catering activity took place during the July 4th festivities. Bruce was always been identified with the VFW and his service career. You see the American flag and you think of Bruce Tipton. Bruce’s veteran comrades said goodbye to him today.

After the completion of the funeral services, friends and family poured out of the funeral home into the midday summer sun into the parking lot. The funeral procession was to begin. With headlights on and the red emergency flasher lights on, the funeral procession of mourners in their cars began entering Route 30, turning east through Downingtown. Bruce Tipton would be making his last trip through Downingtown. How many times Bruce had driven down through Downingtown on his way to a catering job or to be with friends and family? Today would be his last trip. As his funeral cortege began to snake through the Downingtown, some pedestrians took a momentary stop from their daily activity to look and wonder who this funeral procession was honoring. Because there were so many cars in the procession, some probably wondered if this was somebody important. The “important” person was someone just like themselves. He was a small town person born of modest means, and who lived and died within his modest means. However, during his journey through life he accumulated a wealth of friends and goodwill. Those who were fortunate to know Bruce Tipton during his life know what they have lost by his passing. Bruce was a good and decent man who left behind many good memories. He enriched our lives by his presence. We have lost something by his passing from this earthly existence.

The funeral cortege slowly proceeded through the main street of Downingtown (Route 30, Lancaster Avenue), turning left onto Uwchlan Avenue (Route 113), and a silent procession yet making a final statement about how much we all loved and respected this man. We were headed for the Philadelphia Memorial Park in Frazer, Pennsylvania (a veterans’ cemetery). The ride was long, crossing over Route 100, turning onto Route 401 until arriving at the peaceful green fields of the Philadelphia Memorial Park, bathed in the sweltering heat of the midday summer sun. As we wound our way through the narrow maze-like road through the park, most of us were reliving our private memories of Bruce Tipton. Eventually, all the cars in the procession came to a stop. We had arrived at Bruce’s final resting place. The pallbearers removed Bruce’s casket from the back of the hearse and gently placed it on the waiting gurney for Bruce’s final trip. We all pushed the casket and gurney to the grave site. Under the now blazing summer sun was a canopy shading the gravesite with four chairs surrounding the opening in the ground. Immediate family member were invited to sit. Bruce’s brothers Sam and Ike took two of the chairs. Ike Tipton’s wife Betty (my Mother) and Mabel (Ed Tipton’s wife), took the other two chairs. Uncle Ed and Uncle Tip (Fieldon Jacob Tipton, Jr.) were too ill to attend the graveside ceremony. Members of the VFW gave a final gun salute and “Taps” was played. The Reverend Charles E. Weigel, Jr. said a few words then removed the American flag from the Bruce’s casket. With a summer breeze caressing the faces of the mourners almost like it was Bruce’s last goodbye caress of those mourning his loss; the flag was folded in a triangular fashion and handed to Bruce’s lifetime friend, Pete Roop. Then it was over. Some, such as Cousin Michael Tipton (Uncle Tip’s son) and Cousin Linda Tipton (Uncle Ed’s daughter) were overcome with emotion as they realized that their beloved Uncle Bruce was gone forever and was never coming back. He would never to joke with them again in his gentle teasing manner. Uncle Bruce would never again share his warmth, friendship and understanding with them. As relatives consoled each other, we began to return to our cars, leave the memorial park and return to our regular daily routines.

Uncle Bruce is in Paradise now. His earthly concerns are behind him. He is at peace. He has joined his Mother and Father, Hester and Fieldon. He has also joined his brothers who preceded him in death; John, Due, Dick and Erby. We will all see him again in the Great Beyond someday. We will again see his smile and his laugh. Goodbye for now Uncle Bruce.

The following is his obituary as it appeared in the local newspaper:

Bruce Tipton, 63, of Downingtown, PA, died Wednesday, June 28, 1995, in the Elsmere Veterans Administration Center, Elsmere, DE.

Born in West Chester, PA, he was the son of the late Fieldon J. Tipton, Sr. and Hester Lewis Tipton and had lived in Downingtown, PA, all his life.

He was a US Army veteran.

He was employed by the Budd Co., Trailer Division, Eagle, PA for 30 years and recently worked at the Brandywine Post 845 VFW, Downingtown, PA.

Bruce also owned and operated Bruce Tipton Catering, serving barbecues, pig roasts; and picnics to local organizations including the VFW, Moose, various fire companies, and FOP. He also catered private parties.

He was known to be a very loyal friend and had a great sense of humor.

He was a member of the Loyal Order of Moose 1153 and the Brandywine Post 845, both of Downingtown, PA. He was a social member of St. Anthony’s Lodge, the Thorndale Fire Co., the Chester County FOP 11 and the Police Chiefs Association.

He was also a member of the Crossroads Hunting Camp in Huntington County, PA>

He is survived by a daughter, Sharon BeBruyn of Corona, CA., four brothers; Edward, Isaac W., Samuel P., and Fieldon J. Tipton, Jr., all of Downingtown, PA.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, July 3, 1995, in the Ralston & Bredickas Funeral Home, 107 W. Lancaster Avenue, Downingtown, PA. Friends may call from 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday, July 2, 1995; and from 10 to 11 a.m. Monday at the funeral home.

Interment will be in Philadelphia Memorial Park, Frazier, PA.