Repo man Jim Ford raised money to return the elderly couple’s car plus an extra $1,000 five months ago, but that is not the end of the story.
“Stan and I were at peace because we weren’t worrying about bill collectors,” Pat Kipping said. “I had a happy few months because of what Jim did for us.”
But then Kipping, 69, in March was in the Red Bud hospital getting treatment for a new heart condition. She heard her husband, Stan, fell at home.
Her doctor did not want her released.
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“I said in some not very nice words I won’t repeat ... I’m outta here.”
“I got out of the hospital in time to see him ... and all he did was look at me. And I’ll never forget that look. I could see the look in his eyes,” she said. “He knew what was gonna happen, and he was telling me with his eyes, ‘I love you and goodbye.’”
Stan Kipping was 83.
That is when the repo man returned — sort of. The reality is that he never went away.
Ford, 41, is a co-owner of Illini Recovery Inc. in Belleville. Back in November he felt bad after getting a notice to repossess the Kippings’ 1998 Buick after they missed their $95 payments for several months. The Kippings had overdue grocery, pharmacy and medical bills they were too proud to tell their family about.
The story gained national attention after Ford used GoFundMe to raise $3,500 to pay off the Kippings’ car and an extra $1,000 for bills. He returned the car to them serviced and detailed and was met with tears. The video of the reunion has been played more than 200,000 times.
“Once it went national and I was on CBS ... that was the big one,” Ford said.
I got out of the hospital in time to see him ... and all he did was look at me. And I’ll never forget that look. I could see the look in his eyes. He knew what was gonna happen, and he was telling me with his eyes, ‘I love you and goodbye.’
After the story hit CBS Sunday Morning and The Today Show, the GoFundMe account raised an extra $23,000. The Kippings paid their bills and found relief from the bill collectors.
Ford took his wife and kids to Red Bud to meet the Kippings and go out to eat with them.
“We had a great dinner. I like to eat, and Stan liked to eat, too. And Stan likes his Stag. He had a great time. You could tell they hadn’t been to a (nice) restaurant in a long time,” Ford said.
Pat Kipping said it was a big night.
“We’ve maybe stopped at a Dairy Queen or McDonald’s, but to go to a fancy restaurant ... God, I can’t tell you the last time,” she said.
When Ford learned of Stan Kipping’s death, he again turned to GoFundMe and raised $3,000 for Stan’s funeral.
“He’s a guardian angel ... like a grandson,” Pat Kipping said.
Jim calls at least once a week to check in with Pat and chat.
The contributions helped with the big bills and some small things that mattered. Stan got a new pair of jeans to replace ones that were full of holes.
“Thank God I got Stan his brand new pair of pants that he never wore because I had something to bury him in. It’s like little things that I think of like that, you know, at least he had his pants.”
Stan Kipping was buried with a copy of that day’s edition of the Belleville News-Democrat, which he loved, as well as a can of Stag. He always preferred his Stag in a can.
“He had a lot of friends. That funeral was packed.”
Pat Kipping’s family is checking on her more, and her friend Jim Ford is staying in touch. Stan’s beloved lapdog, Baby, is starting to warm up to her even though she still sleeps on Stan’s side of the bed.
The little Pomeranian looks out the window a lot to try to find Stan.
So does Pat.
“I still sit out in the driveway and look down the road thinking he’s gonna come back ... and he’s just not gonna come back.”
But she remains hopeful and determined.
“I’ll get by like I always have all my life ... I’ll get by.”