Monday, September 12, 2011
Rip was born in his parents’ farmhouse in 1926, on land that would later become part of the city of Dearborn Heights, Michigan. An entrepreneur from an early age, Rip sold strawberries during the Great Depression as “The Strawberry Kid.” After working as a machinist during the 1940s, he founded his own business, Rip’s Drive-In restaurant, a suburban Detroit landmark located at the corner of Joy Road and Inkster Road in Dearborn Heights. At the drive-in, Rip worked alongside his wife, Dorothy (Dot) Zimba. The two remained happily married until Dorothy’s passing in 2009.
Rip’s Drive-In was known for its welcoming atmosphere and excellent donuts. Rip and Dorothy were also known for their charity, providing meals and support to the needy and serving free food to volunteers during the annual “Detroit Goodfellows” fundraising campaign. Raised a Catholic, Rip regularly attended Quaker meetings later in life and took university courses in Peace and Conflict Studies.
Rip lived most of his life just a few hundred yards from the place of his birth, and he retained a farmer’s pragmatism and connection to the land. Each year he used his father’s Ford tractor to cultivate what remained of his family’s farmland, raising corn, tomatoes, lettuce, raspberries, and other crops. And yet he was anything but provincial. He was actively interested in world affairs and knowledgeable about world languages and cultures. He traveled widely, including to Central America, Italy, England, Morocco, and Turkey.
After Rip’s Drive-In closed in the mid-1980s, Rip worked as a machinist for Master Automatic, Inc., where his strong work ethic made him a valued employee for many years. Advancing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease led to his retirement, and in 2007 he relocated from Michigan to Vermont, where he received kind and attentive care at Prospect Nursing Home in North Bennington until his passing.