Lee Roy Tripp, 91, of Niles, Michigan Passed away, Sunday July 5, 2020 at his home.
Leroy Tripp was born on April 28, 1929, in Aulander, North Carolina. He was one of eight children, though his parents lost their first and last child, leaving six who survived to adulthood. His father, Jesse, was a Southern sharecropper, raising peanuts, cotton, and tobacco. His mother, Lanie Belle Lee, was a prayerful woman who, in her youth, had hoped to be a Baptist missionary, but the death of her father closed that opportunity. By the time Lee was 12 or 13, his mother’s influence had created in him a desire to be a Baptist minister.
Lee and his siblings often missed large blocks of school during the spring when it was planting time and in the fall when it was harvest time. But Lee loved studying, and he begged his father to let him complete high school. He was able to graduate in 1948 with his class at Rich Square High School, where he was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” He explained, “I was convinced that the Lord wanted me to go into the ministry, and I knew I had to get an education.”
To earn his way through college Lee took a job with the U.S. government on a ship, working for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. While working off the coast of New Jersey, he took a Voice of Prophecy Bible course. By the time he finished the course he was not satisfied to remain a Baptist, yet not ready to become an Adventist. At Lee’s request the Voice of Prophecy put him in touch with Washington Missionary College, now Washington Adventist University, in Takoma Park, Maryland. He planned to attend for one year to make up his mind about Adventists, so he ended up a theology major when he didn’t even know if he wanted to be a church member!
During that year Lee was impressed with the way the teachers opened classes with prayer, and his adviser, T. H. Jemison, took time to carefully answer his many questions. In February of that school year, George Vandeman came to the Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church to conduct a series of evangelistic meetings. Lee gave his heart to the Lord and was on his way to becoming an Adventist minister.
It was about this time that Ellen Bohmer came to Washington Missionary College to visit a friend. Lee and Ellen had met earlier at her church, the Pleasantville SDA Church near Atlantic City, New Jersey, when Lee had looked for an Adventist church to attend while working off the New Jersey coast. They had a visit together at college, and Lee started writing to Ellen. Their love for each other grew, and they were married on August 16, 1953.
After Lee finished his B.A. degree, he earned his M.A. at the SDA Theological Seminary in 1957 and began his ministry in the Ohio Conference. Then he was called to join the New Jersey Conference, pastoring the Mount Holly, and Burlington, Rockaway, Woodbury, Plainfield, and New Brunswick SDA Churches. It was during his time at Rockaway that he and Ellen befriended Loisanne Starszewski’s family, and at Woodbury Lee gave Bible studies to Ed and Marge Kean and their boys and baptized them.
Next Lee got a call to pastor in California, where he pastored at the Mountain View, Campbell, and Sonora churches. The Campbell church, in the Silicon Valley, was in the middle of a building program, and he had the privilege of inspiring the completion of the church and dedicating it.
Lee retired on June 29, 1991, at the age of 62, and the Sonora newspaper, the Union Democrat, noted, “Tripp’s career spans 36 years, three states, and 16 churches. Given his dedication to serving God and humanity, his wife and members of the congregation expect Tripp to stay involved in some sort of pastoral duties when he returns from his travels.” They quoted Ellen saying, “I don’t think he’ll ever stop being a minister. It’s a humanitarian, lifelong commitment to God and to people. You can’t just end and put a period after that type of commitment.”
Lee and Ellen bought an RV from church members and traveled around the U.S. and Canada, especially enjoying time with their daughters, Teri and Lori, and their families. They held and played with their three grandchildren, Samuel Pollard, Julie Pollard, and Reef Peckham, leaving them with precious memories of time with Grandpa and Grandma. Lee never tired of pushing the children in the swing, reading to them, and teaching them to ride a bike and drive a car. He inspired all of them with his love of nature, travel, and reading.
When his grandson, Reef, interviewed him several years ago, he asked: “What has brought you the most joy in life?” Lee answered, “I’ve always loved traveling, seeing new places, and until I left home, I’d never been further than 100 miles from home. And I’ve had the chance to travel to Europe, the Holy Land twice, and that has been a joy. And of course my two daughters and grandchildren have brought a lot of joy into my life. And some precious friends we’ve made through the years in the different churches we’ve pastored have brought a lot of joy and satisfaction.”
Lee and Ellen left California in the summer of 2011 when Ellen’s health was failing. They moved to Maryland to be near Lori. Ellen’s health continued to fail, and Lee was always by her side caring for her with tenderness and patience.
After Ellen’s death in 2013, Margie Kean of Niles, Michigan, reached out to encourage Lee and ask him to pray for the people she was giving Bible studies to. She and Lee wrote letters and then began to talk on the phone. Soon they were having long conversations every day, sharing their mutual love for the Lord and for evangelism. They married in October of 2014 at the Pioneer Memorial Church. Margie’s son, Pastor Frank Kean, performed the wedding, and Loisanne created decorations for the service.
During their six years of marriage they enjoyed an Alaskan cruise for their honeymoon and visited all the national parks. They walked almost every day, gave Bible studies, and ministered together at the Buchanan and Village Seventh-day Adventist churches. Lee continued to touch people’s lives by conducting the wedding of Jeff and Leann Zilke, David and Luz Tripp, and Bob and Marie Wiese, and even regained enough vocalization after a recent stroke to take part in his friend Bob Wiese’s funeral.
Lee was compassionate and had “acts of service” as a love language. He often stopped for a stranded motorist and changed someone’s tire or gave them a ride to the gas station. He also had a tender heart toward animals; he rescued a skunk from a trap and had quite a story to tell about paying the smelly price for that kindness and not even getting a thank-you from the skunk! He turned that story into a spiritual lesson of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and his devotional was printed in the Adventist Review. He loved nature, and instead of telling children’s stories at church he told his famous “Nature Nugget” each week, inviting the children and whole congregation to glimpse God’s character through His second book.
In his later years Lee had numerous hospital visits following broken hips and strokes. But Lee was always a gracious and considerate patient, asking his caretakers their names and remembering them and taking an interest in their lives. When he was discharged from a rehab facility following hip surgery, Lee went to say goodbye to his physical therapist, Matt, and thank him. Matt had a big smile as he joked with him, “I really like you, Lee, but I don’t want to see you again!” One of his hospice nurses remarked, “He’s the only man I’ve ever cared for who thanks me for everything I do for him.”
One of Lee’s former parishioners and dear friends, Calvin Olson, wrote this tribute about him: “Lee is a man of prayer. The way you see him in the pulpit is the way he lives his life.” Then he recalled the story told him by Ellen: “Every Sabbath morning he would go to the church he pastored at about 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. He would never tell me why he went so early until one day, years after we were married, I finally guessed and he admitted that he went to pray in each of the departments before anyone else came.”
During his 40-plus-year career as a minister, Lee offered what some would consider a “higher” position at the conference level, but he felt he couldn’t find fulfillment away from a congregation. His photo albums are full of photos of people whose lives he has touched. One photo has this written on the back: “We’ll never ever forget you and the many blessings the Lord has showered on us because of the light that you have shared with us.”
Facebook tributes and text messages at the announcement of his death echo sentiments of his lasting impact: “He’s on my mental hall of fame for nice people.” “He was truly a wonderful man and one of the foundational preachers of my childhood.” “Lee was a man of God; he was kind, and he knew exactly what to say. I saw in him many good qualities to learn for my ministry as a pastor.” “He was a very big part of our family for many years and a big influence to many.” “Lee was a wonderful person whose smile was always infectious and his demeanor was positive and caring. Looking forward to seeing him again when Jesus comes!” “He was always there when we needed him. He will not be forgotten.” “He will have a beautiful crown full of gems. Truly a man of God.”
Lee baptized countless people and conducted numerous weddings, baby dedications, and funerals, preparing personalized and meaningful comments for each. He began his funeral message for Charlotte King with these words: “In Hebrews 11:4 we are told that Abel even after he was dead still spoke. We may naturally ask ‘How?’ It was through the influence of the actions of his life. Influence does not die when we die. Every life leaves paintings in the gallery of our memories.”
Lee said of Dr. Malcolm Downs at his funeral what could be said of Lee: “Today he rests from his labors. There is no more pain, no more apprehension as to what tomorrow will bring or what the next test will show. The next voice he hears will be that of the Life Giver, who will call him forth to a vibrant, unending life unshadowed by pain, sorrow, or the threat of death.”
These were some of Lee’s favorite Bible passages to share during memorial services:
Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
Revelation 14:13: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; ye saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.”
Isaiah 57:1, 2: “Good people die, and no one understands or even cares. But when they die, no calamity can hurt them. Those who live good lives find peace and rest in death.”
Lee died peacefully at home on July 5, 2020. He is survived by his wife, Margie Kean Tripp of Niles, Michigan; his daughters, Teri Lynette Pollard, an R.N., instructor, and CPA in Washington and Lori Lee Peckham, a college professor and editor in Nebraska; his sons-in-law, Douglas Pollard and Kim Peckham; his grandchildren, Samuel Douglas Pollard, a doctoral student in Oregon, Julie Anne Pollard, an exercise physiologist and graduate student in California, and Reef Lee Peckham, a college student in Nebraska; his stepsons and their families, Eddie Kean, Frank Kean, David Kean, and George Kean; and numerous friends.
Donations may be sent in his honor to Caring Circle Hospice at Home, 4025 Health Park Lane, St. Joseph, MI 49085 or the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA.org).
Lee did indeed live a good life and hung beautiful paintings in the gallery of our memories. He will be missed tremendously, but his influence will live on until God calls Him home to eternal life in heaven. May we all be there together.Print Obituary & Condolences