The stories were not fit for print, nor were they very repeatable outside the confines of a private room at Legacy Park Community Center.
A few troopers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol helped celebrate March 28 the retirement of Lt. Jim Ripley. The boys in blue were blunt with their assessment of life on the force, needling Ripley repeatedly with jokes and wild stories that would have caused shocking gasps if not for the room erupting in laughter over the subject matter.
Ripley, of Lee’s Summit, is calling it a career April 1 after 33 years as a member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and took the time at a retirement reception to thank colleagues and co-workers while taking an unabashed tongue lashing from the few who spoke.
In true ‘locker room’ style, the good-natured ribbing was taken all in fun.
“I guess I can start by telling you I loved the Patrol for 32 years,” Ripley said as he tried to reign in his emotions and before delivering a punch line that caused a collective giggle. “Unfortunately I’ve been here 33.”
Retired trooper Randy Rice delivered a send-off most sailors at sea would be proud of. His fellow troopers – current and retired – and Ripley’s wife and two daughters all got a huge chuckle out of the stories relayed by Rice about his soon-to-be retired comrade.
“Jim Ripley is the best policemen I ever worked with or was ever around,” Rice said in one of the rare moments he was serious. “There’s a gut feeling you get when dealing with bad guys and not all of us have it. But the gentleman (Ripley) sitting right over there was the best I was ever around. He knew bad guys, he knew how to deal with them – if you were in a squabble with someone, I wanted Jim Ripley by my side more than anybody I was ever around or that I ever worked with.”
Ripley, who leaves the Patrol as a homicide investigator, was presented several items as parting gifts, including a Kansas City Royals T-shirt embezzled with the name ‘Denkinger’ on the back followed by the number ‘85.’ Ripley is a St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan and Rice gave him a hard time about the Royals’ Game 6 win in the 1985 World Series over the Cardinals. The T-shirt referenced a controversial called made by umpire Don Denkinger, whose call Rice said St. Louis fans still ‘cry’ about to this day, nearly 28 years later.
“Cardinals fans will cry forever that he got the call wrong,” Rice said. “He may have gotten it wrong by a couple or three feet, but it was close wasn’t it? It ends up we’re baseball fans and I want him to be a Royals fan, so I thought he should always remember the ’85 victory.”
As he continued to fight back tears – he shimmed to the delight of the crowd, which hovered close to 100 – Ripley parted by saying that his work as a state trooper was a humbling experience.
“Retiring from the Patrol, or any other agency that you work for, is like dating the prettiest girl in high school,” he said. “When you are with her, you’re holding her hand when you walk in the gym. You don’t realize she’s going to leave you someday. I did date the prettiest girl in high school and we did break up and it was hard. But, you know the sun came up, and I found somebody better.”