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Vice Mayor Phipps dies at 44
Rob Phipps, who last month was elected to another term as a member of the Ceres City Council, died suddenly Sunday, the victim of an apparent heart attack. He was 44.

Paramedics were called to Phipps' house at 8:20 a.m. He was transported to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto where he was declared dead at 9:14 a.m.

"Rob's passing comes as a great shock to his family, friends, his fellow council members, city staff and the Ceres community," said City Manager Brad Kilger. "Ceres was Rob's home and he always wanted the best for his fellow citizens, settling for nothing less."

A public funeral service will be held at River Oaks Golf Course at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. Burial at Lakewood Memorial Park will follow.

Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Lakewood Funeral Home.

Phipps was to be sworn into office at a special meeting this week. The City Council will be pondering how to fill the vacancy at its meeting on Monday.

Mayor Anthony Cannella said Phipps suffered "excruciating back pain for the last 60 days and made it to everything and still had a smile on his face."

Phipps had not been experiencing significant health problems other than a bad back which stopped him from actively campaigning for re-election last month. He participated in last week's council meeting, with one of his last votes being to increase salaries of city workers to bring them in par with salaries of neighboring similar cities. Phipps also participated in Saturday evening's Christmas Festival and grand opening of Christmas Tree Lane.

Phipps seemed excited about the future of Ceres during the campaign. Before the election he told the Courier: "I want to see some projects completed. I want to continue the way the City Council is right now. We have a good, strong council. We've got good staff now. It's an exciting time. Things are going to start rolling. I think over the next four years you're going to see a lot of new things completed. For the future I think we're at a turning point now for structure, growth and I want to be able to help direct that."

Phipps was a golf pro at his family-owned River Oaks Golf Course in Ceres. He loved the game and operated the Junior Golf program to introduce kids to the sport. At times Phipps sponsored children who could not afford the experience.

His first city experience was a two-year stint on the Ceres Planning Commission. Phipps ran third place in the November 2001 City Council election, barely losing out in his bid for a seat. Because Eric Ingwerson resigned to become mayor, there was a council vacancy and Phipps was selected to serve and was seated Jan. 3, 2002. Phipps was elected in his own right in November 2003. He was re-elected last month.

Phipps was appointed Vice Mayor by Mayor Anthony Cannella in December 2005.

"He was a great friend and colleague," said Mayor Cannella. "Rob was a guy that was larger than life and a big-hearted guy who cared about Ceres more than anything. He was generous with his time and money and sponsored a lot of golf tournaments for good causes."

Phipps regularly hosted events at River Oaks to raise funds for Community Hospice, the Ceres Chamber of Commerce and the American Cancer Society.

"He was just a fantastic person," said Cannella. " I don't think I ever saw him in a bad mood. Just real humble. He could laugh at himself. He was a real joy to be around."

Phipps was born in Fremont and later moved to Hickman as a youngster with his parents, Jim and Carol Phipps. He came to Ceres in 1971. Rob lost his two brothers, one to cancer and the other to the crash of a small plane in Alaska.

Besides his parents, Phipps is survived by his daughter, Lindsay, and a sister.