Posted on: November 5, 2020
Donald Ralph Sipes, M.D., 85, passed away on Saturday, October 17, 2020. He was born November 3, 1934 in Ottawa, Kansas to Rev. John Ralph Sipes and Mary Laona Sipes.
He is survived by a sister, Lily May Klase (Longmont, CO), his son and wife, Donald R. Sipes II, MD, and Jennifer Sipes (Green Bay), five grandchildren: DJ (Monica) Sipes of Stoughton,WI, Alyssa Sipes (Chicago, IL), Isabella Bartel (Orlando, FL), Noah DeBruyn (Chicago, IL), and Elizabeth DeBruyn (Ellensburg, WA). He is also survived by his sister-in-law Sharon (Mark) Patterson of Scottsdale, AZ and his families who adopted him as their own: the Smits Family (Pat, John, Tracy, Johnny and Robby) and the owners and staff at Tender Hearts Assisted Living, especially Nikki who came in for him even when she wasn’t working on the weekends. Also, thanks to Jen from Heartland Hospice who helped in his transition to eternal life.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Janet Mae Sipes, daughter Susan Louise Sipes, M.D., sisters Mary Ann (James) DeGroff, Elizabeth June Syers, and also brother in law Donald Klase. Also preceding him in death were numerous friends and extended family.
My dad’s family grew up in many places. His father was a Methodist minister and they were moved from town to town in the states of Kansas and Missouri, where his preaching was needed. During his time of travels with his family, dad became an Eagle Scout. His accomplishments had just begun.
Fortunately, they stayed at one church for the four years dad was at high school in Holden, MO. In high school he lettered for four years in football, three years in basketball, and three years in track before graduating in 1952. He continued at Central Methodist College in Fayette, MO where he lettered in football as a guard and punter. He was the 8th best punter in the nation among smaller schools with a 40-yard average. During his time in college, he was “Little All American” (1954 and 1955), became captain of the football team, president of his college class, president of his social fraternity, Prom King, and most importantly an excellent student, graduating in 1956. He was always humble and only would talk about these accomplishments when prompted by his sisters.
After college, he attended the University of Missouri Medical School. That is where he met Janet who was at a research position in dietetics at the same hospital. On their first encounter there, she taught him to draw blood. After seven months of courtship, they were married on July 19, 1958 and remained married until Janet’s passing in 2016.
Don and Janet’s life together took them many places. After graduating from medical school, dad went to the University of Virginia for his internship, where Susan was born and then back to the University of Missouri for his residency in OB/GYN, where Donald 2 was born. During their educational travels, he was selected to the Air Force as a Captain under the “Barry Plan”. After residency the family moved to Altus Air Force Base in Altus, Oklahoma where they lived until 1966.
My dad felt it was important to be near to the maternal side of the family, so they decided to move to Wisconsin and Green Bay had the best opportunity for them. He initially joined the West Side Clinic and very quickly became very busy. He practiced there until October of 1973, when he decided to open his own practice – Bay West Gynecology and Obstetrics. He was also very successful with his own business, due to the fact that my dad was and excellent physician and my mom was an excellent office manager. Over the years, others joined the practice and the partners became doctors Sipes, Vogel, Shaffer, Brockman and eventually Sipes II!
I had the privilege to not only have an excellent role model, but also an excellent partner in business.
Don senior worked at Bay West until his retirement on January 1, 1996. It was well deserved. I still to this day hear over and over how much his patients appreciated his kindness and good bedside manner. This is nearly 25 years after his retirement!
Life wasn’t all about work. He and Janet loved going to the cottage at Boot Lake, spending winters in Scottsdale Arizona, spoiling their grandchildren, and of course going to Packer games. One colorful highlight of my youth was the years Dad was one of the physicians for the Green Bay Bobcats. He sewed together many of their hockey wounds. I was able to go into the locker room with the likes of Mayasich, Coppo, Furnette, Lackey brothers, and of course Gordie Yewman, to name a few. The banter in the lock room was very colorful.
After his retirement, the signs of dementia began and slowly progressed until having to be placed in assisted living at Tender Hearts in the summer of 2017. He had excellent care there and I can’t thank them enough for that. He went under hospice care earlier this year and slowly slipped away. But as the staff at Tender Hearts could tell you, he could still sing his songs! Favorites included “You are My Sunshine” and “Let Me Call you Sweetheart”. He even sang the night before he passed to Donald and Jenny.
October 17, 2020 was Sweetest Day and my mom called him to be with her. They are now together with my sister, his sisters and the rest of the extended family. It is definitely a sweeter place for him.