Rev. Alvin Lee “Al” Zipsie died on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison at the age of 83.
Al grew up as a farm boy in Stephenson County, Ill. Throughout his life he extolled the lessons learned on the farm: hard work, persistence, resourcefulness. These lessons he passed on to his children.
Al graduated from high school in Dakota, Ill. He enrolled in Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill from which he received his B.S. degree in History and Biology. He earned his college funds by working summers on a Mississippi tow boat, an experience he cherished. While at Blackburn he also served as a Methodist local pastor with churches in and around Carlinville. After college he attended Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill. but did not finish as he was called to serve by the U.S. Army in the Korean Conflict. Trained as an MP and Medic, he was sent to Korea as an Army Medic attached to a Marine Field Hospital. He was there only a very short time because he became ill and was flown back to Ft. Belvoir, VA Army Hospital for a 3 month stay and extended service time. Only years later was his illness defined as Ankylosing Spondilitis, a painful arthritis of the spine, with which he contended all of his life. While at Ft. Belvoir, he took the medical books out of storage and organized a medical library for the Doctors, residents and nurses. For this he received a letter of commendation. He also assisted the local catholic and Protestant Chaplains, even doing devotions over the hospital radio.
After his honorable discharge in 1957, he took a job as a Professional Assistant at the Cedar Rapids, IA Public Library and spent summers completing his library degree at U.W. Madison where he met his future wife Jo. They married in 1960. It was then he came to Wisconsin and both he and Jo received their Masters Degrees in 1962. Al was Director of the Reedsburg Public Library, then the Portage Public Library, and then with the great help of Marian Kraemer of Plain, his wife Jo, and other public librarians in Sauk County, he organized and operated the Sauk County Library System with the then “new” idea of having municipal libraries share resources and work together to provide better quality service. He also operated the Sauk County Bookmobile to schools and communities. In 1976 he was instrumental in organizing the South Central Library System in cooperation with Dane County, Madison Public Library joining later.
Al’s ministerial work continued throughout his life as an Ordained Minister for Christ doing non-denominational pastoral work officiating at many weddings, funerals and Baptisms. He served as a supply pastor at Big Springs Congregational Church, Adams Congregational Church and others. He emphasized faith-growth, not religious practices. He believed that the most sincere prayer was service to others.
As a librarian interested in promoting education, he and former Sheriff Ralph Hearn organized the first ever professional police training course in Baraboo. He also took that course and others and served as a Special Sauk County Deputy. He trained and worked as a nationally registered EMT and CPR instructor with the Baraboo Ambulance Service.
For 40 years and currently he served as the Red Cross Blood Drive coordinator and received a Direct Service Award from the Red Cross in 2007. Always interested in medical issues, he led an arthritis support group for years at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.
Al was a 50 year veteran of the Boy Scouts of America – Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, WoodBadge, Member of the Order of the Arrow. He received the District Award of Merit. All 3 of his sons were Scouts.
Al worked tirelessly to establish a homeless shelter in Baraboo, logging more than 1,000 hours of physical labor, hours of planning and promoting, and loaning his personal funds to salvage the project.
For a number of years he was responsible for planning, organizing and conducting community wide observance for Memorial Day and Veterans Day as well as many other activities designed to keep the Veterans as a visible community resource.
Al was a longtime member of Kiwanis and received the Dr. Al Dipple community service award in 1999. He was a former Lt. Governor. At the time of his death he was secretary of Kiwanis Golden K.
Pheasants Forever was the conservation group nearest his heart and in 2010 he received the “Sauk County Commendation Award” for his 20 years of service.
In the fall he was privileged to attend the 60th reunion of his Blackburn College graduation and received the Alumni’s “Service to Humanity Award”.
At the time of his death he was a member of the American Legion, Kiwanis Golden K, TRIAD, WCTU, Pheasants Forever and a trustee of the Westfield German Methodist Church.
As much as he cherished his work with people, he cherished his time in the field and woods. The “blaze orange pilgrimage” was sacred, as well as quiet moments sitting on a log at Pine Island sharing lunch with his favorite bird dog, Gunny. While hunting he stored images of nature’s beauty which he later captured on canvas in his oil paintings.
Al believed passionately that everyone should get involved in community service. With all the things there were to see, do, and learn in the world, “boredom” was not permitted. He was definitely not a spectator.
Al is survived by his wife of 52 years, Josephine “Jo” of Baraboo; children, Linda (Charles) Malone of Waukesha, Stephen (Marilyn) Zipsie of Middleton, Elizabeth (Thomas) Bradley of Baraboo, John (Luella) Zipsie of Baraboo, and Mark (Nicole) Zipsie of Kaneohe, Hawaii; grandchildren, Sarah (Steve) Anthony of Blanchardville, Benjamin, Robert, Kathryn and Katie Zipsie of Middleton, Elizabeth and Michael Zipsie of Baraboo, Thomas, Raeanne, and Jack Zipsie of Kaneohe, Hawaii; great-grandchildren, Evan and Vincent Anthony of Blanchardville; brother, Wayne (Norma) Zipsie of Blue Springs, MO; he is further survived by many other nieces; nephews; other relatives and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Winston; infant sister, Dorothy; daughters-in-law, Susan Zipsie and Linda Zipsie.
Funeral Services will be held on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 at 11 a.m. at the Redlin Funeral Home with Pastor Dave Hutchens officiating. Visitation will be on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the funeral home as well as on Friday from 10 a.m. until the time of services. Burial will follow at Walnut Hill Cemetery with Military Rites conducted by the Greenwood Memorial VFW Post 987.