I visited last night with about one hundred people who loved and admired Rip McDonald. An upbeat memorial service took place at AmVets Post 77 in Northeast Philadelphia. James “Rip” McDonald had served in World War Two, including on Iwo Jima. It was an emotional moment when surviving members of the Post snapped a final salute to Rip, who had also served as the Post’s chaplain. Post Commander Matt Schimony movingly paid tribute to his friend. Rip’s son, Brian, was eloquent in telling the progression of his father’s life throughout the world of String Bands and how much Rip influenced many Mummers. Rip did many things in a long life, but as Brian said, the one giant thread was music. Mr. McDonald was a talented musician and a great guy who founded or co-founded a half a dozen bands over his long career. He first marched in 1938 and, except for his time in the war, kept marching all the way through the 2008 parade. Folks from his latest creation, Irish American String Band, and members of other bands and Mummers clubs, were on hand to take part in the farewell. There’s an old song that goes something like, “There’ll be a Mummers Parade in Heaven.” Well, you know who’s in it and giving musical advice all the way. James “Rip” McDonald has passed on, but on this earth, he had quietly, but directly, positively affected thousands of people and will always be remembered. His wife, Elaine (Max to her friends), and Rip’s sons, Brian, Neil, Rob and Sean and his daughter, Coral, are justifiably proud to have lived with and been nurtured by such a wonderful man…and Mummer.
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