Defying all the odds against a diagnosis of Stage 4 Mesothelioma for two miraculous years, Holly Pippas, 61, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri left us on 1/4/21. Her beloved husband, Jim Pippas was at her side.
Holly was born on December 10, 1959 to Roy and Elaine Benson in Villa Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. In 1967, the family moved from Chicago to St Louis, Missouri where Holly graduated from Parkway West High School. After graduation she attended Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri where she earned a degree in Marketing. Holly always considered both Chicago and St. Louis her hometowns.
Loyalty and Telecommunications must have been part of Holly’s DNA. The family moved from Chicago to St. Louis because her father, an engineer at Western Electric, part of the Bell system, was transferred. Roy continued to work for Western Electric until his retirement. In 1983, Holly accepted a marketing position at AT&T, also part of the Bell system. Following her father’s example, Holly, too, remained with AT&T for her entire life. Not only was she a loyal employee, she was an exemplary manager.
Holly and Jim met while attending SEMO, After a whirlwind courtship, they were married by a Justice of the Peace on August 20, 1982. Holly understood that planning a wedding for her only daughter was important to Elaine, so she agreed to a second ceremony with friends and family on May 28, 1983, in St Louis. Remembering and celebrating two wedding anniversaries was more than either Jim or Holly could manage on a regular basis. This led to many laughs and much teasing by friends.
Holly’s superpower was establishing close and lasting relationships. Wherever Holly went she created family. Some family was chosen by God and some were chosen by Holly and Jim’s friends. All of them were beneficiaries of Holly’s love. She understood that love is action, so she learned Greek. Although she rarely spoke the language because she was embarrassed that she could not roll her R’s, listening and understanding helped her communicate with Jim’s large family. She became a deacon in the First Presbyterian Church of Hackettstown, New Jersey and continued her close relationship with those families for the remainder of her life. She worked continuously on handmade gifts such as Christmas ornaments or cross-stitch samplers. She kept in touch with each person and taught us all the importance of just showing up for those you love.
The years 2005- 2016 attest to the way Holly showed up for her immediate family. After her brother’s cancer was diagnosed, Holly went to Springfield, Missouri so that she was immediately available to give as much assistance as Chris and his wife, Toni, wanted. Less than two years after Chris’s passing, Holly worked remotely from Florida for several months, staying there full-time, to be with her parents as her mother’s health failed from the same devastating disease. She returned to Florida again to help her father as his memory began to fail. When it was clear that he needed more care than Holly could provide, the decision was made to move him to a facility in the Kansas City area, so Holly or Jim could visit him daily. Holly didn’t just say she would help, she showed up and helped with day-to-day care as long as needed and posts on her Facebook page show that immediate family were not the only ones for whom Holly was there.
Holly loved baseball, probably in part because her father and grandfather did. Holly cheered for the Cubs because she was part Chicagoan, the Cardinals because she was part St. Louisan, and the Royals because she lived in the Kansas City metro area. She and Jim are one third of three couples, the ODIBS, who are trying to see a game in every major league park. The ODIBs policy is to root for the stadium’s home team unless they are playing the Royals and then ODIBs root for the Royals. When Holly was too exhausted to do anything but watch TV, baseball games were one of the things she watched.
While showing up for The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is a yearly event for many, for Holly it was a year-round crusade. Holly actively participated in many areas of Relay from team member to Relay Chair for more than 2 decades. Holly was competitive in the best sense of the word, and she excelled as a Relay team captain and at fundraising. She sponsored luminaria for everyone she knew who was impacted by cancer, so The Cancer Fighting Village – her team- had one of the longest lines of luminaria along the edge of the Relay track.
Holly touched many lives so deeply an accurate list of the family that survives her would be impractical if not impossible.
A celebration of Holly’s life will be held at a time in the future when it is safe to travel. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Relay for Life.
You may donate to Team – We Walk for Holly Pippas Jim is acting as captain of the team to carry on Holly’s Tradition.