CARBONDALE — Robert “Rip” Stokes, 89, passed away at 5:15 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, at his home with his family by his side.
He was born May 11, 1925, in Anna, the son of Silas Evan and Ona (Helton) Stokes.
He married Gloria Ellen Fritze on May 3, 1947, in St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Anna. They shared 67 years together.
Left to miss him are his wife, Gloria; and five children, Robert (Robbie) Stokes, Jr. (B.J.), Keith Stokes (Ginger), Paul Stokes (Michelle), Suzan Schwegman (Jeff), and Teresa McCarthy (Tim); nine grandchildren, Holly Swoape (Brent), Ryan Stokes (Krissy), Robby Clark-Stokes (Katie), Carly Clark-Stokes, Jack McCarthy, Megan McCarthy, Sara Schwegman, Scott Schwegman and Collin Stokes; three great-grandchildren, Ryder Swoape, Roxy Swoape and Riley Stokes’ and a special niece, Trish (Mike) Crawford and family from Virginia; and the Cruse Clan from St. Louis.
Rip graduated from Anna Jonesboro High school in 1943 and immediately entered the U.S. Army Air Force. He first saw SIU (then SINU) when he was assigned to the Air Corps training classes on campus. He felt very fortunate to be stationed so near his home town of Anna. Eventually, he was sent to England where he was an 8th Army Air Force tail gunner on a B-17, flying missions over France, Germany and central Europe.
Rip first became interested in photography during the war and upon returning to Anna, he worked for and was taught by his mentor, Dr. C. William “Bill” Horrell who owned a photography studio in Anna. In 1951, Rip and Gloria moved to Carbondale and he and Dr. Horrell set up the SIU Photographic Services. For 32 years he served as the university photographer and director of Photo Services, and was involved in setting up the first computerized university ID cards. He gave lecture/demos on the ID card project at Harvard and helped Duke University implement their system. During his career he recorded history at SIU and Southern Illinois in thousands of memorable pictures. Many were published nationwide. An iconic photo chosen by “Life” magazine was Rip’s photo of a puppy leaping up and grabbing the bell of a Marching Saluki’s trumpet (and hanging on!) This shot was viewed world-wide. He was the first non-athlete inducted into the SIU Athletic Hall of Fame. Rip was very proud of this honor and was instrumental in putting together the Hall of Fame. He was a familiar sight on the sidelines and court boundaries, equipped with his Hasselblad cameras, for countless university sporting events.
Rip was an avid baseball fan, good-naturedly (mostly) suffering through the Chicago Cubs many seasons (some of which were better than others). He was a dedicated Carbondale little league coach and administrator, shepherding many local teams including the “Lynx” and the “Royals.” He was for two years president of the Carbondale Junior Baseball League and worked tirelessly to advocate for new playing facilities.
In 1969, Rip was elected executive vice president of the University Photographers of America. Rip served on the Carbondale Liquor Advisory Board. He received the Service to Southern Award for his many contributions to the University. Rip was an avid record collector and big band jazz fan, sharing CD’s with many friends. He was a hearty golfer and member of Jackson Country Club, an amateur ornithologist, and loved growing flowers. He was also a long time member of Carbondale Elks’ Lodge.
Rip will be remembered and missed by a great many people.
Memorials may be made to the Robert “Rip” Stokes Photography Scholarship Fund at SIU Foundation, Colyer Hall, 1235 Douglas Drive, Mailcode 6805, Carbondale, IL 62901.
A memorial celebration will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 7, in Walker Funeral Home at 112 S. Poplar St., Carbondale.