Ripplinger expresses appreciation for dad through Father of the Year essay contest

Young Paul Ripplinger, left, was named a finalist in the Minnesota Twins Father of the Year essay contest for the piece he wrote about his father, Paul, right.
Young Paul Ripplinger, left, was named a finalist in the Minnesota Twins Father of the Year essay contest for the piece he wrote about his father, Paul, right.

Named semifinalist in Minnesota Twins contest

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Upsala high school student Paul Ripplinger and his fellow English students were given an assignment by teacher Jennifer Henry way back in January, to write an essay about their fathers. The essays needed to be completed by the end of that hour.

Paul finished his essay, handed it in and didn’t think anything of it. Henry sent all of the essays in to the Minnesota Twins Father of the Year essay contest.

Weeks later when he was sitting in band class, Paul watched Henry come in and announce to the class that he had been nominated as one of 60 semifinalists in the contest out of 5,200 entries.

“I thought she was kidding,” Paul said. “Then she showed me a paper that proved it, and handed me a questionnaire packet for my dad to fill out.”

Paul’s father is also named Paul, the same as his grandfather was. Since young Paul’s middle name is different than his father’s and his grandfather’s, he is not called Paul III.

Young Paul hasn’t seen the essay since he turned it in, and doesn’t recall exactly what he wrote. But he remembers talking about some special memories.

“I wrote about how he helped me with my homework when it was things he knew. He coached basketball for a little bit,” young Paul said. “I wrote about a time we went fishing in Wisconsin when we were headed to Springfield, Ill. to visit Lincoln’s home.”

Both father and son recalled skipping rocks on the Mississippi River. Young Paul was standing behind his dad and just as his dad brought his arm up to throw a rock, young Paul stood up and was cut across the forehead.

“It’s funny to talk about now,” young Paul said. “My mom (Susie) is a nurse, and she put steri-strips and butterfly bandages on it.”

When dad Paul received the questionnaire packet that was part of the contest, he discovered it involved eight to 10 questions. He didn’t have ready answers to such things as what the expectations of a father to a son might be, or of what kind of role model he is.

“Looking at the questions, I thought, ‘Man, I’ve never thought of that before,’” he said. “It was just the way we were brought up.”

He recalls his own father as someone who was easygoing, quiet and patient.

“My dad didn’t have to tell you he loved you — you just knew,” said Paul.

Young Paul is the eldest of three Ripplinger children, with brothers Andy and Micah.

A new member of the family was added about 10 years ago when the family hosted a foreign exchange student from Denmark, Elin Knutson. The Ripplinger family travelled to see her about seven years ago, and about once or twice a year they talk on the phone.

“She went everywhere we went,” said dad Paul. “It was hard when she left.”

“She was like any other family member,” young Paul said.

The Ripplingers will likely be spending Father’s Day visiting with family. The day will simply be marked with a quiet knowing that a dad is important and appreciated and loves his children.

“It’s not about me,” dad Paul said.