Wallace Whitney Tripp
FRANCESTOWN - Wallace Whitney Tripp, 78, passed away on September 9, 2018, after a three-decade struggle with Parkinson's disease. Tripp was a children's book illustrator who had a brief but productive career, ultimately illustrating some thirty-nine children's books for other authors, and nine books of his own, as well as creating hundreds images for Pawprints Greeting Cards.
Tripp started his career in children's books; popular titles include "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!", A Great, Big, Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me, Sir Toby Jingle's Beastly Journey, and two books in the Amelia Bedilia series. His pen-and-ink and watercolor style of drawing was meticulous and classical, but his love of comic book art kept subjects lively. Tripp specialized in anthropomorphic animals, often dressed in carefully researched period costumes. He admired the story telling of illustrator Ernest Shepard, the linework and spirit of T.S. Sullivant, and the swagger of J.C. Leyendecker and John Singer Sargent. Many of his early works were color-separated by hand on acetate sheets, often with only two or three colors to work with; when photo reproduction became common, he added transparent watercolors to his ink work, resulting in classic books such as Granfa Grig Had a Pig and Other Rhymes without Reason, which won the Horn Book Award in 1977, and Marguerite, Go Wash Your Feet. Tripp created characters for Richard Purdum's animation studio in London, resulting in award-winning animated commercials for British television. His final book, Rose's Are Red, Violet's Are Blue and Other Silly Poems was drawn with both ink and watercolor, and with colored pencil, as he had increasing difficulty handling an ink pen due to his advancing Parkinson's disease.
Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Tripp's family moved to New York and later New Hampshire, where he would live most of the rest of his life. He studied art at the Boston Museum School, studied English at Keene State College, and briefly taught English before turning to art full-time. He married Marcia Bixby Tripp in 1965; his first words to her were "Greetings, my name is Vladimir Hook." They had three children together who would all become artists; son Benjamin Whitney is a novelist, daughter Loren Avery is a set designer, and son Samuel Sparhawk is a musician.
An art and history enthusiast, Tripp and his family moved to Tavistock, England in 1973 and traveled Europe for some time thereafter, living in a Volkswagen camper, a guardhouse in the city wall of Assisi, Italy, and assorted other places. Travel in search of history would remain a fixture in his life; it is believed that he visited every extant castle in Britain and Wales.
In 1975, Tripp's parents Kenneth and Francis founded Pawprints Greeting Cards. Later, wife Marcy grew the company into one of America's leading card publishers, adding gifts, calendars, and other products to the lineup. Wally would illustrate over 600 greeting cards for Pawprints. Marcy founded Sparhawk Books in 1980, which published Wallace Tripp's Wurst Seller, a compilation of nonsense poetry and visual puns, and Bad Child's Book of Beasts, which was also published as a pop-up book. When he wasn't supposed to be drawing, and often when he was, Tripp loved to build and crash model airplanes. He also learned to fly real aircraft and piloted a Piper Archer (tail number 2910G.) He was a passionate fan of classical music and spent the 1980s investing in ever-more powerful stereo systems which could be heard from miles away on a still New Hampshire afternoon. Medieval history, collecting antique toys and E.C. comic book art, and reading about classical composers rounded out his time.
His sense of humor is legendary. He felt the antidote to cruelty was laughter, and his love of all things ridiculous (From Chaucer to the Goon Show) propelled him through every event in life. Anyone who knew him will remember his high-pitched giggle; he went into hysterics at the premier of Blazing Saddles, fell into the aisle, and had to be helped back into his seat. Constructing elaborate puns and reading aloud from volumes of nonsense verse were staples at the family dinner table. Tripp was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1986. He swiftly lost the use of his right hand, and learned how to draw with his left in order to keep working. In 1994 the Tripps moved to Southern California to be near their grandchildren. Due to his increasing disability, 1999 Marcy and Wallace officially closed Pawprints, licensing the card rights to Recycled Papers. Daughter Loren re-opened Pawprints in 2015 and plans to bring back Tripp's work to loyal fans and a new audience via an online print-on-demand service.
In 2001 Tripp received deep brain stimulation implants to override the worst symptoms of Parkinson's, a device which, with annual battery changes, operated until his death and earned him the moniker "Cyborg Grampa." This device, along with medication, a daily commitment to exercise, and dedicated caregivers, kept him functioning for years past his due date. With his health stabilized, and divorced, he returned to New Hampshire in 2007. There Tripp rediscovered his high school sweetheart Rita Ludwig Farhm. They remained happily together for eight years until his death at her home in Francestown, where he was surrounded by loving friends, family, and two cats. Tripp is survived by Marcy, Rita, his children, his brothers Steve and David, and three grandsons Ian J. S. Tripp, a film maker, and Peter and Quincy Ryan, both musicians. The family is grateful for the loving care given to Wally by the staff and residents of Scott-Farrar and Pheasantwood in Peterborough, and the nurses of Compassus and Brightstar hospice. A memorial service is planned for June at his Pleasant Pond cabin. In lieu of flowers, the family ask that donations be sent to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
Published by Monadnock Ledger-Transcript from Sep. 18 to Oct. 2, 2018.
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11 Entries
So sad to hear about Wally. Such a wonderful write up about his life! I will check out his work for sure!
I overheard staff at Scott-Farrar last night mention Wally's passing. I met Wally when visiting my mother at Scott-Farrar. I also met Rita there, and heard a brief story of their reconnection as high school sweethearts.
When my son came with his 2 year old son to visit grandma/greatgrandma, we had lunch with everyone. Wally came out to lunch with his Spider Man shirt on and Kane loved it! My grandson lit everyone up with multiple "Hi Wally" statements along with a wave. I definitely saw that twinkle in Wally's eyes! It was a special moment.
My sympathies to Wally's family, I hope you are helped in your grief by all your wonderful memories of Wally.
M Mickle
September 21, 2018
We loved when Wally would come up to the Inn on Saturday nights with Rita - and laugh along with us in our tales of Francestown. Although he could not speak, that special twinkle in his eyes said it all!
BJ & Scott Carbee
September 19, 2018
I have loved this man's work for a long, long, time, looked at his images over and over - even tried to emulate it a couple of times - to no avail! I was happy to read about the things that made him laugh - I find the same things funny, too. RIP, Mr. Tripp - may I call you Wally? You've given so much and I thank you.
Murray Callahan
September 18, 2018
Dear Mr. Wallace Tripp, or his drawings at least, influenced my entire life. I remember reading "A Great Big, Ugly Man..." when I was very, very young (probably only about 4 years old), and the illustrations therein proved to be the most interesting tales of all! The crumbling bridge, the lion-bartender, the Slithergadee... these all were rendered with such humor, grace, and delicacy! His art colored my childhood with amusement and shenanigans. It was pretty, darn wonderful.
My sympathy and heartfelt compassion goes to the family/families who are grieving Wallace Tripp's loss. His legacy will not be forgotten, and children will still read his books and see his drawings, rest assured of that.
All my love.
Leah Van Dinther
September 18, 2018
Marguerite Go Wash Your Feet has been our family's go-to present for young children for 30 years. Our own children knew everything in it off by heart, thanks to the brilliant, charming, illustrations. We never got tired of it. What a remarkable wit and vision. The final page, with Prospero throwing his book ("not a liberry book") into the ocean seems a fitting memorial for Wallace Tripp.
Elizabeth Legge
September 18, 2018
I was so sorry to hear of his passing and his struggles with Parkinson's Disease.
I have loved and collected Wallace Tripp illustrated books since I discovered A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me when it first came out. As Art Director for Tower Records San Francisco, I even used his characters from Stand Back I'm Going To Sneeze in a store display once.
He brought much joy to many who loved his art and his sense of humor that came through each of his drawings.
Susan Bushard
September 18, 2018
I have a number of Wally's beautifully illustrated books. When I was an Illustration major at mass College of Art many years ago, we visited the Boston Public Library where his work was on display. I've been an admirer of his incredible talent since then. I had just read the full obituary and you can clearly see what a rich, full life Wally lived. He will be missed.
Jean Cotton
September 18, 2018
Anne Nawawi
September 18, 2018
During this time of great sorrow and pain, know that you are not alone. May God give your family strength and comfort to help you endure this time of loss. As you remember your beloved one, may our Father, the God of peace, give you comfort and peace in every way today, tomorrow, and always. Please accept my sincere condolences. 2 Thessalonians 3:16
September 18, 2018
Hello! As a child I read Stand Back Said the Elephant (I was born in 1974). When our daughter was small I would read it to her and we would just laugh and laugh together. It was our favorite book to read. Just this last week, I used it in a class I teach. High school students read it aloud, each having an assigned animal. They laughed through the entire class and loved it. Thank you, Mr. Tripp for your gifts you used. And thank you to the Tripp family for sharing him with the world.
Stephanie Gilbert
September 18, 2018
Wally was a huge inspiration to me. He really had a one-of-a-kind talent, and when I wrote to him as a teen to tell him, he wrote back. I will never forget that he took that time out for this random Rhode Island girl, who is now an illustrator, too. Hugs to his family at this sad time. <3
Liz Goulet Dubois
September 18, 2018
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