Lifelong journalist Jerry Tippens, who died Monday at 74 after a long battle with cancer, spent his life fighting hunger, first with his pen and later as a member of the board of the Oregon Food Bank.
He devoted his life to being a newspaperman, said his daughter, Julie Tippens, chief of staff for Rep. David Wu, D-Ore. "From 17 to 74, he was an active journalist," Julie Tippens said. She said the last piece he wrote was for The Daily Astorian, where he was a longtime columnist.
Tippens started his career at The Daily Republic in Mitchell, S.D., working at the paper while he attended Dakota Wesleyan University. Decades later in 2003, the institution awarded him an honorary doctorate of humane letters for journalism and for fighting hunger and its causes in Oregon. His parents were alumni of Dakota Wesleyan, where both had been taught by a young professor named George McGovern, she said, explaining that the Tippens' family's politics run deep.
McGovern attended the dedication of the new Oregon Food Bank facility in Portland, for which Tippens raised millions.
Tippens went on to write for the Oregon Journal, starting as night city editor in 1962. He covered the state legislature in through the mid-1960s, meeting characters like Harl Haas and Jim Redden, Julie Tippens said. He was editorial editor when the Journal merged with The Oregonian. He retired from The Oregonian in 1991 as associate editor, but continued to write columns for The Daily Astorian and the Capital Press.
"Jerry was a very influential editorial writer," said David Sarasohn, associate editor of The Oregonian. "He brought a kind of rural outlook, the idea the two parts of Oregon are connected." He also brought an "enormous institutional memory," Sarasohn said.
He said that although editorial boards can be quite contentious, he never saw Tippens get angry. Instead, he was extraordinarily warm and supportive and interested in other people's ideas.
Always an optimist, Tippens was "persistently optimistic" that his beloved Cleveland Indians would win the World Series again, as they had in 1948, said Sarasohn.
After Tippens retired from The Oregonian, he led the Oregon Food Bank through a period of extraordinary growth, which enabled it to feed an enormous number of people, Sarasohn said. He said Tippens was involved at every level, from the highest level as chairman of the food bank's board from 1997 to 2001, raising millions of dollars and testifying in Salem, to the local food bank in Wheeler, near his Nehalem-area home.
"Oregon would be a different place without him," Sarasohn said.
"Dad's passion really was the food bank," Julie Tippens said, pointing out that he was originally a farm boy from South Dakota.
Besides leading a capital campaign that raised $12 million for the Oregon Food Bank, he pushed for the organization to go after the root causes of hunger, such as high housing costs and the lack of family wage jobs, said Kim Thomas, food bank's director of advocacy and agency relations.
She called Tippens the "heart and soul of the food bank."
He leaves a widow, Helen, a retired victims' rights advocate. They were married 51 years.
Other survivors include his son Hal of Seattle and a sister Kathie Wiper.