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Charitable ‘elf’ dies at 90

Graveside service set for Saturday for Thelma Sipe

ROCK FALLS – Ninety-year-old Thelma J. Sipe never wore funny hats or traveled to the North Pole.

Nevertheless, the Whiteside County Health Department staff will forever remember the Prophetstown woman as their “little elf.”

Sipe – who died Oct. 19 – spent her time and money handcrafting hundreds of hats, mittens, quilts and crafts for needy children at Christmastime. The health department staff distributed her gifts every year.

Sipe also made suckers for kids who needed shots; and donated homemade baby blankets year round.

The petite elderly woman used a walker; and was known for her smiles and hugs. She had lived at Coventry Living Center in Sterling, and recently moved to Tucson, Ariz., to be with family.

Pam VanderVinne, 57, of Morrison, is a registered nurse and case management coordinator at the health department. She was amazed by Sipe’s generosity.

“She was just such a giving, loving person,” VanderVinne said. ... “Her heart was just in making sure kids had a warm, happy Christmas.”

Thelma suffered a stroke, but that never stopped her.

“She said it just gave her a purpose,” VanderVinne said. “She said it gave her a reason to keep going ...”

Brigette Vasquez, 48, of Sterling, is a case manager for the federal Women, Infants and Children program. She described Sipe as kind, thoughtful, creative and admirable. Vasquez will miss her greatly.

“It just breaks my heart,” she said.

Marcia Widolff, 50, of rural Tampico, is the department’s director of public health. She said Thelma gave selflessly.

“She didn’t really want credit for it at all.”

Sipe was incredibly talented, and children were excited to receive her beautiful gifts, the staff said.

Sipe inspired other crafters to join her charity, and the health department hopes it will continue.

A memorial has been established for local charities, including her children’s gift outreach through the health department.

Donations may be made to the Thelma J. Sipe Memorial Fund, c/o the Farmer’s National Bank, 114 W. Third St., Prophetstown, IL 61277.

Friends also are welcome to attend a graveside service for Thelma at 2 p.m. Saturday at Coloma Township Cemetery, 908 Avalon St.; and a gathering after the service at Country Inn & Suites, 2106 First Ave.

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