When the repo man showed up, “Baby” lost her ride.
The little Pomeranian dog loved to curl up on 82-year-old Stanford Kipping’s lap when he and his wife Patty, 70, went for a drive. But in recent months a sharp increase in the cost of prescription medicine and other bills were more than a match for the couple’s fixed incomes. With several $95 a month car payments left unpaid on their 1998 Buick, the repo man, Jim Ford of Belleville, stopped his tow truck in front of their house.
Ford, 41, ought to have turned into a cynical, bitter man, he said. After all, he had been shot at several times when repossessing vehicles, including once when he was lying on the ground hooking up a tow chain and a man let fly with a rifle inches from his head.
“I never even saw him but I felt the flash and tasted gunpowder in my mouth,” Ford said.
But Ford, co-owner of Illini Recovery Inc., is different. He said he knocks on doors to tell folks what’s going on and allow them a chance to remove personal items. “I may be getting soft in my old age but you get more done with kindness,” he said.
Ford had met with the Kippings. In fact he tried to work out a deal with the bank for them to keep their car but it was a no go. It was the hook for the Buick.
“When I got home that night, I said to myself, ‘They are a real nice elderly couple. I gotta do something. I can’t just take their car,’” Ford said.
Then he did something that surely broke the hard code of ethics for repo men, he decided that he would pay off the Kippings’ debt and return their car to their driveway.
Using the online service “GoFundMe” and depending on his friends in the repo business, Ford said he raised more than $3,500 in one night. After the fee for the service and after paying the $2,501 to the bank owed on the Buick, Ford tucked $1,000 in cash into an envelope. A co-worker at his business bought a frozen Thanksgiving turkey and Ford put it in the cab of his tow truck.
On Monday, he and Tom Williams, a friend, fixed the Buick’s headlights, topped off the radiator and changed the engine oil. Then they hooked the car up for a return trip.
Kipping and his wife, who uses a walker and had to give up working at the local Moto Mart because of poor eyesight, knew the car was coming, but not the grand in cash and the turkey. They were waiting when Ford and Williams pulled up with the Buick in tow.
“It was a miracle come true. We didn’t know what we were going to do,” said Patty Kipping, as a small group of neighbors gathered around and cheered Ford.
“I got up this morning and I looked up at the sun and I said, ‘I hope we get our car back.’ It’s just unbelievable,” said Stanford Kipping, a retired dock worker.
Then disbelieving, Patty Kipping held out her hand and accepted the envelope of cash from Ford. A neighbor put the turkey on the porch.
During it all, Ford stood beaming, hardly the image of a repo man. But he couldn’t stop smiling.
Baby was in Stanford Kipping’s arms, a leash around her neck, as both eyed the Buick.
“It looks like it’s new,” he said.