NLJ Staff

Paul Marshall Kipper, 71, fun-loving family man and long-form conversationalist, died on Dec. 11, 2022, at 7:15 p.m., was momentarily resuscitated by true love’s kiss, then departed this world for good at 7:17 p.m. 

Paul married his college sweetheart, Bonnie, 50 years ago. He was later surprised to learn that their ancestors had neighboring farms in Dakota Territory in the 1870s, and spent the rest of his life marveling at other “small world” connections. Together Paul and Bonnie raised four children of whom he was exceedingly proud, each of them marrying spouses he considered his children as well: Kari and Ryan Dodson, Rory and Sarah Kipper, Cassie and Ryan Chandler, and John and Maggie Kipper. His long career at the Internal Revenue Service called for the family to relocate every few years — they lived in six states over the course of their life together. Along the way, Paul and his magnetic personality collected an impressive constellation of friends, so many of whom are more aptly described as extended family.

It wasn’t until retirement that Paul and Bonnie sat still long enough to consider travel fun, and began wandering further afield. Together they explored Italy, Guam, Vietnam, Singapore, and Cambodia. Many have been regaled with tales from his week-long “deployment” on the USS Boxer, arguably his favorite adventure of all.

In every facet of his life, Paul was a study in laser-focused but boundless passion. His hobbies were manifold: he was an avid and skillful golfer, a devoted philatelist, a bourbon connoisseur, and a fossil hunter. He bought and lovingly restored classic Thunderbirds, played accordion, piano and organ, flew radio-controlled airplanes, made his own wine (under the label “Pour Paul’s”), and watched classic movies. 

Loyalty was his superpower and tradition his drug of choice. For years he single-handedly kept Coca-Cola afloat. Local business owners could set their clocks by Paul’s arrival, and then expect to lose a few minutes to friendly chit-chat. He will live on in the traditions he started: stashing scratch-off lottery tickets in Christmas stockings, playing his wine glass with his thumb at the end of a holiday meal, and — his McDonald’s favorite — playing “1 or 2,” wherein one guesses the number of French fries pinched between his fingers.

Paul was a kid at heart and, as such, was terrific at playing silly games to entertain children — he was constantly stealing noses. Goofing around with grandsons, Fletcher, 6, and Hudson Kipper, 17 months, was the delight of his final days. Though his cooking left much to be desired, he excelled at kid cuisine like “chili on eggs on toast” — the name is the recipe — and “bologna and cheese people” — insipid sandwiches punched out with gingerbread-man cookie cutters to encourage little


From the time his kids came along, the family cabin in Wyoming and its raft of improvement projects figured large into every summer. He toiled all day for the promise of a few hours each evening playing nickel slot machines in a Deadwood, S.D., casino. When there was the opportunity to go to the beach in Delaware, he would feast on piles of crab, play putt-putt, and draw a crowd with his signature sand sculpture of an alligator finishing a meal of a human leg. 

Family was Paul’s cornerstone, coming as he did from a large and tight-knit one, which includes cherished siblings George Kipper, Carol Voorheis, Lynne Ashe, and Louise Berdahl. Since his relatives are geographically dispersed, he logged tens of thousands of miles driving to make visits. It is said that while doing so, he darkened the doorstep of a McDonalds in every single state of this fair union. A true road warrior, he was known for his zero-dark thirty departures and reciting each passing road sign. 

The sun rose on very few Sundays that he wasn’t in the front pew at St. Mark Lutheran Church, but his fellow regulars will tell you that he didn’t sit down before making his rounds as the unofficial Church Lady Greeting Committee. He sang tenor in the choir and occasionally even lent his skills as an accordion player, something learned under duress as a child and dusted off later in life to irritate his wife.

The man survived so much, from aneurysms to car accidents, and a cancer diagnosis that gave him two months to live 17 years ago. It was perhaps a bit surprising that he was so unceasingly positive. He was always quick with a bad joke (think great effort for small reward), but even when the punchline fell flat it unfailingly lifted everyone’s spirits as they joined in a collective groan. He was a skilled haggler who doggedly but respectfully got exactly what he sought from every interaction — customer service representatives everywhere will be doffing their caps in respect and breathing a sigh of relief. Gregarious and thoughtful, Paul only needed a tiny nudge from Bonnie to turn his outgoing nature and generous spirit into a life of service — he helped set up for the weekly local farmer’s market, started the gardens at the Red House, delivered Meals on Wheels, and was a member of the local Rotary Club. His positivity and kind spirit were infectious, he lived well, laughed hard, and the world is better for having had him in it.

There will be a public memorial service at St. Mark Lutheran Church, 1900 Cape La Croix Rd., Cape Girardeau, Mo., at 2 p.m., Jan. 7. In lieu of flowers, Paul and his family ask that you commit to an annual flu shot to protect yourself and your loved ones and consider a donation to Lutheran World Relief or The Wingman Foundation, causes close to his heart.

Ford and Sons Funeral Home has been entrusted with arrangements.



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