A Lasting Legacy Helps Berwick Corps Achieve its Red Kettle Goal

Feb 9, 2024

When John Gipple received news that he was diagnosed with brain cancer, he surprised his family with one request: To keep bellringing for The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign. Despite this debilitating disease, Gipple wanted to continue doing two things he loved: taking care of his family and standing up kettles for the Berwick, PA, community he called home.

As his condition worsened, Gipple entered hospice care in November 2023 and passed away shortly after at the age of 43 but his bond with The Salvation Army Berwick Corps that started years earlier was everlasting.

“He would go down to The Salvation Army to help give food and interact with people,” said his aunt, Laura Remley. “One day, he asked them if he could ring the bell, and they said absolutely. It was all rooted in his passion for working with people and being nice to them. It gave him a sense of purpose.”

John Gipple embodied the spirit of the hundreds of bell ringers who take to the streets and to shopping centers each year in The Salvation Army Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division.

In 2023, John’s kettle raised $2,258, increasing the total amount raised by the Berwick Corps to $35,520.44. Their goal was to reach $35,000, which Gipple’s kettle helped them reach and exceed. The funds collected will support programs throughout the region year-round, including food programs, rent and utility assistance, youth programs and spiritual programs.

Even though he was not loquacious, his energy drew people towards him. His simple ‘good mornings, good afternoons, Merry Christmas’ and asking about people’s days went a long way in the Berwick community.

Gipple’s family sometimes struggled to make ends meet, so he had more reason to bell ring as his family was one of the beneficiaries of the donations made kettles.

A few months before he died, Gipple was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. After discussing the news, Laura remembered how hard he pushed to continue bellringing.

“He could hardly wait for the holidays to volunteer again,” she said. “When we got the news, we told him you cannot go down there anymore as it would be too much for you to handle physically. It was hard for him to accept this.”

After Gipple could no longer physically man a kettle due to his illness, Captains Michael and Jennifer Buzzard of The Salvation Army Berwick Corps created a kettle stand to honor his memory and dedication to bellringing.

“John gave eight years of his life to serve others,” said Capt. Buzzard. “He alone raised almost $50,000 in those eight years. Faithfulness and loyalty should always be acknowledged. He never asked for it, but I feel it’s the least we can do to say thank you.”

When the news of his passing spread throughout the community, the concern and praise for him were considerable.

“Many people came up to me and we got a lot of comments about him,” Laura said. “They told me they were sorry we lost such a good gentleman. When he was out by the kettles, he was pleasant and nice toward people.”

Despite his passing, Gipple’s memory and spirit live through his kettle stand and holiday cheer in the Berwick community. With an emphasis on donations last year to support TSA programs, his impact around Berwick will be felt long after his passing.

“John had no idea how many people he touched by his gentle presence,” Capt. Buzzard said. “The money he raised continues to touch families and give hope. But his legacy will be the kind smile and quiet whisper of a ‘Thank You. Merry Christmas’ to the people of this small town.”

For more information on Gipple’s virtual red kettle, please visit https://give.salvationarmy.org/campaign/in-memory-of-john-gipple-virtual-red-kettle-2023/c541510.

For more information on how to get involved with The Salvation Army, please visit https://easternusa.salvationarmy.org/eastern-pennsylvania/volunteer/.

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