The Three Rivers Lions Club has selected Vera and Jim Bippus of Three Rivers as “Citizens of the Year” in 2012.
Since 1965, the Lions Club has recognized persons who, through a commitment to service, have given unselfishly of themselves for the betterment of the community. In keeping with this tradition, the Bippuses will receive their honor during a public banquet on Tuesday, April 24, 2012. The selection of a married couple as “Citizen(s) of the Year” is not without precedent, as the Lions had previously paid tribute to Zelda and Harold Voorhees in 1976, Phyllis and William Swanwick in 1989, and Mary and Taylor Snow in 2007.
Both natives of Ohio, Vera and Jim met while both were employed at Essex Wire in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. They came to Three Rivers when Jim was transferred here by Essex. They eventually purchased the Amoco service station on West Michigan Avenue from John Tokarski, and, in 1983, acquired the Shell service station at the corner of West Michigan Avenue and US 131, which they owned until 2006.
Now enjoying retirement, Jim spends a great deal of time at his woodworking shop, where he produces a multitude of items that adorn their home, as well as the homes of others. They have chosen to forego traveling, a popular pastime for many retirees, because they prefer to remain here, close to their family. According to Jim, “Vera has always said she likes her home, and that’s where she wants to be.”
Their home serves as a gathering place for their large family, which consists of six children. Their children visit frequently, with sons John and Joe arriving every Wednesday for lunch, daughter Annette stopping by a couple of evenings a week, and the entire clan joining them for a big dinner each Sunday. Vera is well-known for her cooking skills, which she shares with her family and with the many visitors to their home. Joe, their second-youngest son, declares, “My mom has a gift of hospitality that she got from her family. I’m sure that, if she sat down, it would be an accident, she didn’t mean to.”
Their hospitality extends to their neighbors, as well. Jim exclaims, “We have a great neighborhood,” and Vera adds, “We get along like a big family.” Jim and Vera perform a multitude of generous services for their neighbors, including babysitting, pet sitting, working with other neighbors to clean up after storms, and plowing people’s driveways. In fact, when he still had a snow plow on his truck, Jim could often be seen clearing a number of parking lots, which he did at no charge.
Vera and Jim are quiet contributors to the community. Their history of service extends across many years and spans generations of recipients. While they prefer to remain in the background, their many acts of kindness have had a “ripple effect” on the lives of those people who have been beneficiaries of their kindness.
The April 24 banquet honoring Vera and Jim Bippus will take place at Belle Époque (formerly A Place in Time), 54 Railroad Drive, Three Rivers. The evening will begin with a “social time” at 6:00, followed by dinner at 6:30 and a program featuring presentations by several speakers.
Tickets for the banquet, priced at $20 per person, will be on sale at the office of Lion Sally Cotton at Southern Michigan Bank & Trust in downtown Three Rivers, through Tuesday, April 17. Tickets will not be available at the door.