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There was a knock at the door. Late, just minutes before lights out.

Charles "Rip" Ripley opened the door, and there stood two teenagers, 13 and 14.

Rip wasn't mean or especially kind when he asked what they wanted, although he already knew.

They'd heard he was a guy who would help a kid out.

"We're full up," Rip said. And they were. Almost every square inch of the small house he inherited from his parents was filled with young guys who had no safe place to go.

They started to walk off.

"Where you going," he asked. The oldest told him they had a place in Boyle Park.

It was a story Rip had heard countless times.

They didn't have a safe place to live.

"Come on in," he said.

That was the Rip most people didn't really know.

The guy who had the Parkview gym renamed "Rip Arena" was a public figure. A winning coach, whether it was football, baseball or his passion, basketball.

Rip led Parkview to five state basketball championships, and his 487-152 record got him inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

For the last two years, Rip had been courageously fighting cancer until Sunday night when it finally got him.

Over the course of his life, he couldn't name or even count the young men who needed a place to stay for a night or longer. He just never locked his door.

It would be nice to say they all turned out great, but that would be a fairy tale.

When he left high school coaching to be the head coach at Westark, now UA-Fort Smith, he immediately took in a couple of guys from Little Rock. Within a week, one was in trouble, and Rip was in hot water for giving him a place to live.

That was just Rip.

He left there to work for Keith Jackson at Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids.

A good man who's goal in life was to make a difference in young people's lives. He knew the value of an education, and his final years of work were at Arkansas Baptist as the athletic director where he never took a cent in pay.

He saw it as his calling to find athletes a place to live, get fed and get an education.

Every penny he raised went to the kids.

"I've been blessed," he once said over lunch at Corky's Ribs and BBQ, which gave him a special account the last couple of years. "I've got teacher retirement, social security and my parents left me with a home.

"What better way to spend what I have on those who really need it."

At that lunch, he told us his doctor had ordered him to start watching what he ate.

He ordered smothered tamales with extra chili and said, "I'm going to watch every bite I eat."

Rip was short, round and not athletic, but he loved sports and began coaching when he was 12 at the Boys Club, riding his bike to Lamar Porter Field.

Somehow he seemed bigger and definitely commanded respect.

He was welcome in every neighborhood in his hometown.

A few years ago, he was recruiting in Memphis and pulled into a gas station to make a phone call. His window was down, and suddenly there was a pistol at the side of his head.

Rip quickly drove off. He didn't report it but said he learned a lesson: "Memphis isn't home."

Over the years, Rip rented more tuxedos for proms than Paul Morrell. His Parkview Patriots could charge food at Andy's, and he would pay for it.

The last two years, he had countless visitors at the nursing home until covid-19 changed that.

Not every young man he gave a home to appreciated him, but mostly like those two youngsters he saved from Boyle Park finished high school and went to college.

Rip has a legacy as a coach and difference-maker in lives, and will be missed by legions.

OPINION Like It Is

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