Merced County Times Newspaper
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Richard Gipson, regional Democratic Party leader, dies at 74

March 5, 1946 ~ Sept. 3, 2020

Richard Edward Gipson
Richard Edward Gipson

Richard Edward Gipson was born on March 5, 1946 in Astoria, Oregon to Betty Jean Gipson and Harry Edward Gipson.  Rich spent his growing up years as an Air Force Military Dependent.  This enabled him to live, travel and experience many places and cultures.  Elementary School was in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Middle School Grades 7, 8, 9 was spent in Guam at Andersen Air Force Base.  While in Guam the Gipson’s traveled to the Philippines and Japan.  High School was completed in Omaha, Nebraska.  Wherever the Gipson family lived, they made sure they saw as much of the surrounding area as possible.  Rich began college at Merced College where he was a Student Body Leader.  He transferred to University of California Santa Barbara whereas a Political Science Major, he became involved in several political Democratic campaigns.  As a Eugene McCarthy Delegate, he attended the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

After he graduated from UC Santa Barbara, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.  He was assigned to personnel at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Rich continued his political activities as an anti-war protester driving celebrities to events.  Rich was always able to do his best work and make his bosses look good and believed that gave him some liberties.

After his time in the Air Force he returned to his parents’ home in Atwater.  At that time, he began to work on his teaching credential and student taught at Atwater High School in Political Science.  He loved to share his knowledge of history and politics to create informed citizens.   Upon receiving his credential, he took a job as a special needs’ teacher.  Beyond teaching he continued his love for politics and served on the Atwater City Council.  He married Teri Srutek and soon had a son, Matthew Srutek Gipson, a gift from God.  As time went on, he became involved in Democratic Politics and was elected as Vice Chair of the Northern California Democratic Central Committee where he served with Nancy Pelosi as Chair.  As Matthew grew, he wanted to spend more time at home being the best father he could.  At this time Rich was asked to check out computers to support learning disabled students.  He was a pioneer in implementing the use of computers as a learning tool.  From that day on he led the Merced City School District in Computer Technology in the classrooms.  He served the students at Margaret Sheehy Elementary School and Rivera Middle School as well as providing staff development for classroom teachers.  Rich received his master’s degree and began to teach future teachers’ techniques in using computers to promote learning for Chapman University and Stanislaus State University.  Even after retirement, Rich would mentor future teachers for Fresno Pacific University.  He loved sharing his knowledge of teaching and learning. Throughout his career Rich was recognized by numerous awards including the WHO award for his involvement and accomplishments as a member of California Teachers Association.

Prior to his retirement while teaching at Rivera Middle School Rich fell in love with Sharon Spinardi and they were married April 10, 1999.  They were best friends and loved to entertain, dance, and travel.

During retirement Rich began to pursue his love for art through water colors and other innovative techniques with the support of Kate Jackson.  He was incredibly creative, a divergent thinker and enjoyed everything he attempted.

Throughout his career and beyond, Rich was always active in politics and community involvement.  He was Past President of  Merced University Friends Circle and involved in The Merced County League of Women Voters.

Rich was a delegate for Barrack Obama at the 2012 Democratic Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina and in 2016 he was a delegate for Hillary Clinton.  He also served as the Chair of the Merced County Democratic Central Committee. Most recently he was elected to be President Elect of the California Retired Teachers Association where over the years he has lobbied for Social Security Fairness (WEP-GPO) in Sacramento and Washington D.C.  Rich always said that politics was his sport and his Super Bowl was an election.  Rich would say “VOTE” and “VOTE BIDEN”.

Rich is preceded in passing by his father, Ed Gipson and mother, Betty Jean Gipson, brother, Rodger Gipson.  He is survived by his wife, Sharon Spinardi, his bonus daughter Paula Pimentel, son Matthew Gipson, daughter in law Becky, granddaughters Julia and Emily Gipson.

You can donate toward humanity, empathy, and in honor of Rich by voting for Biden and Harris on Nov. 3.  Otherwise, make a donation toward mental health or environmental foundations that we will all need in the next four years.

At this time there will be a private (COVID) family service. The family is planning to celebrate Rich in a year (when we can gather safely) to remember him again with the party he would have wanted  food, drink and dancing.  If you have a special story to share or comment to make about Rich please send it to [email protected] we will compile to share at the party.

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