Yes, it’s hard to believe! Marshall Flippo died November 4, 2018, and here we’ve lived two years without him. Hopefully for those who bought his biography, you’ve been able to keep his memory alive and celebrate his life.
Lin and I watched Disney’s “Coco,” to add to my celebration of the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in my blog from last week. What a precious story that is! One of the premises in the movie is Miguel’s father, Hector, abandoned the family, so for several generations they banned music in their homes, and they cut Hector’s photo out of the picture celebrated on Día de los Muertos. So, on the Día del los Muertos, Hector came to the gate to cross over to join his family’s celebration, and the gatekeeper denied him because no one posted his picture—Hector’s retribution!
As I thought about this story line and the loss of Flippo and so many dear friends and family, I wondered what Flippo, Frank Lane, Lee Kopman, and many others were doing right now, so here we go!
Frank Lane died on October 31, 2018, Flippo on November 4 and Lee Kopman on November 13—within three weeks, three major square dancers lost to this world. Unlike the movie, “Coco,” the inhabitants of the Great Beyond look young and vibrant. When Flippo passed away, Frank greeted him warning him about the smoking policy in their new place. To Frank’s surprise, Flip stated, “I don’t want a cigarette!” Miracles do happen!
Then Flippo added, “Frank, have you played ‘Petals Around the Rose’ recently?” Frank laughed and said, “I’ve played it several times up here.” Soon the two of them greeted Lee—a heavenly reunion. Square dancers rejoiced and have enjoyed many festivals since this trio arrived.
Dia de los Muertos 2020 arrived and many of our deceased loved ones crossed the bridge and joined us on this memorable day whether we saw them or not, so obviously we remembered them with photos and reminisces.
After their return across the bridge before dawn, dancers donned their festive square dance attire and participated in a gigantic dance with this powerful threesome calling on the biggest celestial stage with live music similar to our amazing Ghost Rider Band. This heavenly band included Pancho and Marie Baird and the Git-fiddlers Band playing with Earl Caruthers and his Hoedowners. Bob and Becky Osgood and Lloyd “Pappy” and Dorothy Shaw organized this big event with workshops on dancing and style. They reminded the dancers about smooth dancing. And was it smooth!
Flippo kept elbowing Frank saying, “Listen to that band! The best I’ve ever heard!” And Frank agreed.
Favorite cuers like the Manning and Nita Smith, Charlie and Bettye Proctor joined in, providing rounds between tips. The multiple round dance circles filled the whole dance floor.
My dad and mom sought out Flippo and made a strong connection through me. I can imagine the smile on my dad’s face as he danced to these historic callers and cuers!
Neeca Flippo and Barbara Lane sat at the back of the stage, clapping and enjoying their husband’s music and friendship. Norman and Nadine Merbach sat beside them, proud of their star, Flippo.
Lee Kopman wowed everyone with a variety of new moves he’s created in that other world with unfamiliar names and calls I can’t even imagine!
The highlight of this special dance came when this trio invited other callers to join them. The crowd went crazy when their favorites took the stage, yet it appeared the dancers loved all of the callers. Flippo honored his mentors from Abilene, Texas to be the first on the stage during this part of the dance: Betty Casey, J. C. Wilson, Bob Sumrall and Owen Renfro. When they finished, they circled Flippo and celebrated his successful career and their part in it.
As always, Flippo enjoyed the breaks between tips, socializing with friends. He teased Bob Fisk about his full head of hair. Beryl Main reminded Flippo of his lost suitcase and all the fun they had being “The Chaparral Boys.” When that topic came up, Jerry Haag joined in the reverie, and Flippo recalled Jerry’s Brenda Flea after party routine.
A cluster of callers gathered around Ed Gilmore, an icon in the calling world. Joe Lewis stood near Ed, and Flippo joined them. Flip had always been in awe of Joe Lewis as his hero.
When the music stopped, Flippo heard a familiar voice and saw a crowd of dancers huddled around Arnie Kronenberger, and immediately he knew Arnie was telling his favorite joke—cleaned up for sure.
As he surveyed this collection of callers, Flip eyed Dave Taylor and moved towards him. As they hugged and reconnected, they remembered their countless dances they worked together, especially their trip to England and Dave’s driving on “the wrong side of the road.”
After the next tip, Al “Tex” Brownlee shouted, “Flippo, come on over here!” He waved a pair of handcuffs at Flip and began laughing at that hilarious trick he pulled on Flip. Flippo wondered how Tex could tell any of his jokes here, but Tex assured him that he had clean versions.
Flippo relished his dancer friends as much as his caller/cuer friends. He approached Bill and Phyllis Speidel with a laugh. Bill had his magician outfit on, and he grabbed Bob Fisk to remind him about his cowboy hat that appeared to be ruined so many years ago.
Then Flippo rushed to Whitey Puerling and hugged him close. With tears in his eyes, he recalled their trip to Spain and the Easter parade they never found. Another couple nudged Flippo, Joe and Cricket Young. He left Whitey and visited with them. As happened so often for Flippo when he was at a square dance event—he didn’t have enough time to spend with each friend!
When Cal Golden took the stage in his glittery costume, the dancers roared. Other callers made their appearance: Bob Page with his wife Nita, Bob Van Antwerp, and Bill Castner. I love it when multitude callers sing together. Later Max Forysth and Johnnie Wykoff joined Bob Yerington and Johnny Davis on stage. Bob and Al Brundage also performed for the crowd. The night ended with C. O. Guest, Billy Lewis and Hotsy Bacon.
After the dance, Harper and Ray Smith organized the after party, the party after the dance, and they are created with its’ beginning. They featured Singing Sam Mitchell and Flippo applauded the loudest—he loved Sam’s singing voice.
This memorable celebration of Dia de los Muertos, square and round dance style, ended in the wee hours of eternity—remember, no time in heaven! As you can see, the beat goes on, and square and round dancing continues to flourish in the next world. Someday I’ll see you there!
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