Life Story / Obituary
"There are two insults which no human being will endure: the assertion that he hasn't a sense of humor and the doubly impertinent assertion that he has never known trouble." – Sinclair Lewis
Thomas Ronald Schipper was born May 9, 1964 in Pella, Iowa, the youngest child of Ron & Joyce Schipper. Growing up, he loved exploring the outdoors, spending time with friends, and tuning-in to reruns of Star Trek. He began playing music at a young age, a love passed down by his mother that followed him all his life. In grade school, he participated in various sports and extracurricular activities – going far his senior year in track & field and as a drummer with his school’s jazz band.
After high school, he attended Central College in Pella, where his father was a football coach for many years. At Central, he pursued a major in Theater, participating in shows and learning the skills which brought him to his career as a stagehand and member of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees Union (IATSE). His love of drumming continued through college and into his twenties, when he was the drummer for The Merry Pranksters and Horny Genius. Through music & schooling, he was able to take some memorable travels across the world. Back home, he and his friends would travel cross-country just to see a favorite film or watch a beloved band perform.
In 1992, he married Kristine Kimball in Pella. The pair welcomed their first child, Elsje Sara, that same year. In 1995, after moving to Iowa City, they welcomed their second child, Lukas Sybrand. Tom continued his career in the theater as a stagehand for Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa. In 1998, the family moved to Lewiston, Maine, where Tom spent the next ten years working at Bates College. He continued to pursue music with his 'Bald Hill' bluegrass buddies, and played drums for the jazz group 'Three Point Trio'. He spent his free time with his family & friends, going on camping trips and hikes in the Maine wilderness.
In 2018, Tom moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan to be closer to his extended family. He continued his work as a stagehand at venues around the city with IATSE Local 26. During the pandemic, he protested with the local union for greater benefits for those out of work. In 2021, spurred by the urge to travel and enjoy the outdoors, he moved to New Mexico with his longtime friend and partner in disc-golf, Peter Koehn.
He is survived by his children, Elsje & Lukas, and his elder siblings Tim Schipper & Sara Russell (and their families). They are deeply grateful for the show of love & support that they have received since Tom's passing -- and hope to plan a celebration of life to take place in Maine on Tom's birthday.
Visitation will be 6-8 pm Wednesday at the Dykstra Funeral Home-Mulder Chapel, 188 West 32nd Street.
Donations can be made on his behalf to Projects LETS & the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network.