Jim Tipton—A Profile in Courage
By Bob Drynan
I’ve been invited to write a profile of my dear friend, Jim Tipton. I’ve known him for over ten years, but to be frank I don’t know his history except in bits and pieces. I know he was raised in Ohio by a Quaker father and for thirteen years taught English and Literature at Alma college in Michigan where he also raised bees as a hobby. Later in the deserts and highlands of Colorado he became a full-time bee keeper and developed his avocation as a poet.
An adventurer, he made extended trips to Peru and Colombia in South America and later visited Turkey, the Greek islands of Rhodes and Crete, and followed the footsteps of Jesus in Israel. He participated in the fine arts community of San Francisco in the mid-Sixties. He found his way to the Chapala Lakeside and made his here home thirteen years ago.
Jim became an Associate Editor on the staff of the Ojo del Lago and, as well, was a regular participant in several writers’ critique groups and workshops.
He has earned some renown as a poet and writer of short stories. In 1999 Jim received the Colorado Book Award for his book of poems entitled Letters from a Stranger. He has published two other collections of poetry at Lakeside and shared in locally produced short story anthologies.
While in Peru, Jim ran across a book written by Isabel Allende, herself a celebrated author. Impressed, he wrote to her and they became fast friends who remain in touch to this day.
But that is merely a litany of a few of the steps in his life’s journey. We all begin life as an inchoate being, growing and evolving as life leads us through events, missteps, successes, loves and losses. Each step of the way shapes us through what these experiences have taught us, and how we respond to those lessons. We were many things over our life’s span and a different person in each of its stages.
The man I’ve come to know and love as a brother is the sum-total of his past and how it shaped him. Of that I can write.
Jim Tipton is innately a gentleman, and more to his credit, a gentle man. I felt his arm around my shoulders when my wife of forty-six years passed away. I’ve observed his caring touch when others of our community have suffered loss, pain, distress. I’ve seen his whole-hearted enthusiasm when he shares the joys of other’s successes.
His poems and stories reflect his sense of beauty, not the superficial, but that which shines from within, as in, “When the Fat Lady Runs in the Rain” or when an aging Navaho makes his last journey in “Willie Bill Begay’s Long Walk.”
The courage and engaging good cheer Jim exhibits in the face of his struggle with cancer, the discipline and diligence that he brings to the battle with this adversary, are an example for all. His success has astounded his friends and physicians alike.
If any one word best describes Jim Tipton, it is “Love;” love for his friends, an unthreatening and protective love for women, and a wholesome, exuberant love of life.
When his turn comes, his time in our small world will have made it a better place than it was before he entered it.