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Rippey Graduate, Keith Devilbiss, Designs and Builds School Monument

Keith Devilbiss, 1956 graduate of Rippey Consolidated School, puts the finishing touches on the monument that was built with the bricks from the school demolition. The time capsule will be completed during the summer of 2015.

Keith Devilbiss Building School Monument  June 2015     Keith Devilbiss         

  June 4, 2015 

He Helped Build the Gym; Now He’s Building a Monument..by Mary Weaver

     Keith Devilbiss of Rippey knows how to turn a lemon situation into sweet palatable lemonade! He is pictured here completing one of his life’s passions, working as a mason, this time making a memorial for the Rippey School from the bricks used to erect the building in 1921.

     The Rippey Consolidated School was razed in October of 2014. In one of the last acts of the East Greene board of education before consolidating with the Jefferson-Scranton district to form Greene County Community Schools, financial arrangements were made to raze the building so it would not become an eyesore or a danger to the residents of the community. The East Greene board also requested the Greene County board of education to allow the City of Rippey first priority in obtaining the school grounds when they were no longer to be used by the Greene County School District. Both of these events have now officially occurred.

      Rippey Consolidated School became a part of East Greene Community Schools in 1963 and was used as an attendance center for elementary grades until 2010. The gymnasium, recently renamed the Wisecup Memorial Gymnasium, was built in 1957. Carrying mud for that addition was one of the first jobs for mason Devilbiss. At the completion of the summer he was offered a seven week training course fully paid by Roth Construction, the company that built the gym. He was off to start his life long career.  He worked in central Iowa, eventually starting his own business, Devilbiss Construction. Among the many other things he built is the Rippey United Methodist Church.

     In a rather bittersweet moment following the razing of the building last October, he was employed as a contractor to re-brick the windows and the doors on the west side of the gymnasium. Coming full circle he is now erecting a monument to the Rippey School building at age 77.

     Luckily and thanks to some expert salvage work by Lansing Brothers of Luxemburg, Iowa, the signage at the top of the building, “Rippey Consolidated School” and the identification signage located just inside the building from 1921 were saved and are being re-built into the memorial.

     Devilbiss knew what was available and in November of 2014 he presented three drawings to the Friends of Rippey, who along with the Rippey Alumni Association are funding the memorial project. The memorial selected by the group will be five feet high, and 24 feet long, and includes the 1920 “birth” cornerstone from the original building, and a similar newly created limestone block “death” of 1962. In the center of the memorial there will be a photo of the original building ingrained into black granite including the dates children used the building, 1920 to 2014.

     The time capsule found during the razing of the original building along with a current time capsule will be re-buried into the memorial by Devilbiss.

     Rippey and the surrounding farm families had a strong desire to educate their children. In 1898 Rippey had 11 country schools and a township high school. The town of Rippey also had a high school and in November of 1919 the vote was 154-23 to merge the schools into the Rippey Consolidated School. A bid was let for $147,000. Two hundred eight-six students enrolled at the beginning of the year;  seven graduates walked across the new stage in 1922.

      A school retirement celebration was held on May 18, 2012, the last time children ran from the building for their summer vacation.

     The city of Rippey has established a park of the grounds, and when Greene County Schools no longer will use the gymnasium the building will belong to the city of Rippey.

      Devilbiss has deep roots in the community and his love and dedication to Rippey is visibly discernable. Once the memorial is completed he will work to finish moving the school playground equipment to the Rippey baseball park area, and he hopes to re-furbish the skating rink into a usable rink again for the youth of the area.

      Rippey alumni held their annual reunion during the recent Memorial Day weekend, and voted to build a patio area from the memorial to the flag pole, through a $500 donation, and the purchase of individual named memorial bricks at $50. The bricks are available to persons with memories of the school including teachers, graduates and attendees. Up to three lines with 18 characters on each line are available. The patio area will run from the memorial to the flag pole, and will include a bench in honor of the long time alumni president, the late Velda DeMoss.

     The Rippey community and Rippey alumni are indeed indebted and grateful to Keith Devilbiss for this wonderful serving of “lemonade.”