By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Farewell to Phipps
Rob Phipps was portrayed as a man who deeply loved his community, loved promoting the sport of golf to young people and being incapable of quashing the desire to play a good prank on close friends.

The 44-year-old Ceres City Council man was eulogized by both friends, clergy and city officials at a packed crowd of mourners at River Oaks Golf Course on Saturday morning. He was also remembered by fellow golfers who recalled his love of the sport at the family-owned golf course where he was general manager.

Phipps, who was re-elected to a four-year term last month, died unexpectedly on Sunday morning, Dec. 2. The night before he was attending the Ceres Christmas Festival.

Alan Love, business owner and Ceres Chamber of Commerce president, turned out to remember Phipps. Love sat next to the burly Phipps on the first wagon ride down Christmas Tree Lane the night before his death.

"His back was hurting and he was leaning against me at an angle," said Love. "I just heard him hollering 'Merry Christmas' to everyone off of my left shoulder. He seemed fine except for his bank hurting. Just the same old Rob that I knew. He was an all-around good guy. An all around good guy."

Fellow Councilman Ken Lane and former Mayor Eric Ingwerson probably felt the impact more than anyone outside the family. Both men were close friends of Phipps.

Lane said Phipps may not have suffered a heart attack. Apparently Phipps had been taking Vicodin for several months to mask his pain. A firefighter who tended to Phipps in the ambulance told Lane that Phipps had difficulty breathing. Because Vicodin can thicken the blood, there is speculation that a blood clot may have formed in his lungs or heart.

Pastor Wayne Unger recalled Phipps as a servant who enjoyed serving people.

"Abraham Lincoln," said Unger, "was said to have made the statement, 'It's not the years in your life that count, it is the life in your years.' By that standard, Rob's life was extremely full. Rob's life may have been short in years but it was full of life."

Phipps came to Ceres in 1973 with his parents, Jim and Carol Phipps. At age 16 in 1979, Rob helped his father build the River Oaks Golf Course. He learned how to run the business and maintain the course. With golf pro Greg Silva he helped get the Junior Golf program off the ground. It's been estimated that 8,000 students have learned the game through the program. He also used the golf course to raise tens of thousands of dollars for Community Hospice and for Ceres High School.

Phipps got involved in city affairs when he was appointed in 1999 to the Ceres Planning Commission. He was appointed to a council vacancy on Jan. 3, 2002 and elected to the council in his own right in 2003 and last month.

He belonged to the Ceres Lions Club, and was a former president of the Arrowhead Club.

Phipps' practical jokes were exposed at his funeral. When Ingwerson and his wife Carol were away on vacation, Phipps and others dumped off an old junk car and discarded furniture and trash and dumped the pile in his yard.

Recently Phipps conducted a Measure H campaign stunt by rolling up and down the streets in a vintage fire engine. Phipps turned the lights and sirens down Whitmore Avenue and was pulled over by an officer. He also hired a local actor to be a bumpling waiter at his table of close friends at the Hungry Hunter restaurant.

"He always very generous," said Dr. Bill Gray, neighbor of the Phipps. "Rob was a statesman. He was civic minded, a gentleman, a leader. He was a caring person. He had a great sense of humor. He was kind. Rob was our friend."

The service included the reading of a letter from former Ceres High School golf standout Ryan Thornberry. "Rob was a big kid at heart," wrote Thornberry. "He only knew to laugh, joke and have a good time. He was always willing to give the time and help to others for any cause. He was special to me for basically being the number one person who made it possible for me to play golf. Golf was a very expensive sport and he made it possible for myself and thousands of other children, teenagers and adults to play and practice for next to nothing."

Police Chief Art deWerk said Phipps was extremely supportive of public safety and was proud to carry an honorary police badge. The badge was placed on his chest for burial.

City Manager Brad Kilger praised Phipps was one of the "most hard-working and caring individuals I've ever known. He was always thinking of ways to make lives of Ceres residents better."

He also remembers Phipps as being a rascal with his outlandish humor. "He had that rare quality that made you want to thump him and hug him at the same time," said Kilger.