Mike Drippé: the four pound baby who came home in a shoebox

When Mike Drippé was born he weighed four pounds; he was brought home in a shoebox. His mom was divorced and lived with her parents, so his early years were spent at his grandparents’ house in Riffton, Pennsylvania.

When he was three years old Mike was riding in a car with his uncle. This was in the days before seat belts and child seats, and when his uncle turned a corner Mike somehow flew out of the car and dislocated his hip. He had to wear a leg brace with a six inch high shoe for months. The doctors said he would never walk right again. But apparently the hip went back into place and he was able to walk and run fairly soon after that. He thanks God for that.

His mom remarried when he was six and his half-brother Peter was born when he was nine. When asked about his step-father, Mike explained, “My stepdad was not a really communicative man, but he never got angry and he took us on vacations. When I became a teenager and started to get into music, in particular the emerging popular music scene, he used to come into my room and I would play certain pieces and he’d sit very quietly with his eyes closed and listened intently and he was enjoying the music with me. We listened to rock and roll – the Beatles and other British rock groups and some American groups. We enjoyed it a lot. He used to close eyes and sit in a room with me and really pay attention and listen.” Can you imagine? A dad in the 1960’s listening to rock music with his teenage son and enjoying it?

At 13, Mike began his freshman year of high school at Saint Joseph Academy in New Jersey. It was an all-boys college prep school, unusual in that all the students stayed in one classroom throughout the entire day and the teachers moved around. Students were required to stand up to answer a question put to them by the teacher. It was the kind of school where you were guaranteed entrance to college even if you had only a C average, but Mike was on the honor roll.

Small, skinny, and younger than the others
In March of his freshman year, Mike’s family moved to Arlington Heights near Chicago in Illinois and he went to another college prep school. He had less than two months left go and it was somewhat difficult coming in at the at the end of the school year. Not only was he the new kid, he was younger and smaller than everyone else and he had the peculiar habit of standing up every time he was asked a question, which was not required at this school.

Still in Arlington Heights, Mike went to public school starting in his sophomore year. Once again, the family moved in March, this time back to New Jersey to a town called Marlboro. Again, he had about two months left of school and he says, “My only claim to fame that year was that I was the best geometry student in the history of the high school.” Not bad to those of us who barely scraped through our high school geometry class! Mike remained at that school to finish up his sophomore year and then continued there through his junior and senior years.

During his junior year Mike was captain of the chess club. It wasn’t until senior year that Mike went out for sports, first cross country running. He explained, “Not because I could run very well long distance, but because I wanted to prepare myself – give myself good wind to join the wrestling team. I was tied for worst place on the cross country team, but I was a very good sprinter.” Then he went out for wrestling and did pretty well in practices until he got injured in gym class (of all places) and so couldn’t be on the wrestling team. In the spring he joined the tennis team and played either number three spot or first doubles.

Architecture, art, and philosophy
Mike graduated high school when he was 17. He applied to four colleges and was accepted by all of them. He decided to go to Penn State University as both of his parents had attended there and it was a State College. Mike wanted to study architecture – it had been his dream ever since he was a child, but they had a quota on how many students they would let in to the school and it was full. So, they suggested that he study architectural engineering instead, which was related to architecture. However, Mike was very disappointed because even though he went in to the finals with an A average, he came out with B average, which prevented him from transferring to the school of architecture. In his second year, he switched his major to art.

Mike at 24
Mike at 24
Mike at 24

Right after his second year at Penn state, his family moved to Indiana. Mike applied and was accepted to The Herron School of Art, originally an independent art school but it had become a part of the Indianapolis University – Purdue University at Indianapolis. Mike majored in art as a freshman, sophomore, and junior but somewhere around his sophomore – junior year he got very interested in philosophy and took enough courses so that he actually earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy rather than fine arts. All in all, it took almost 10 years from when he started college to actually get a degree.

Brother Junipers
During college Mike was simply on a quest to learn and employment didn’t really figure too much into it. He did work a few summer jobs, as many students do, but he had no thoughts about professional employment. During this time, he got involved with a Christian group that eventually became the core group that founded Joy of All Who Sorrow. Mike participated in their spiritual life and while finishing up college, he started working at Brother Juniper’s restaurant – his first long-term, full time job. He worked there a total of five years, starting as dishwasher, then making sandwiches, and eventually becoming the assistant manager. This was the Brother Juniper’s on Massachusetts Avenue, the big restaurant at the time. They also had a little one across the street from the church on 16th street and one at a professional building off of Alabama street. For a short time, they also had a very fancy restaurant on Washington street.

Along came Mary
After being at Brother Juniper’s and then having graduated from college Mike was offered a restaurant manager position at Christopher’s restaurant, which was essentially a Brother Juniper’s restaurant with a different name. It was the exact same menu, but the sandwiches had different names. Mike worked there about two years, during which time he started dating Mary, his future wife. Mary worked at Business Furniture Corporation, which had an opening for an estimating position. Mike had worked at Christopher’s for about two years, and Business Furniture offered him the position. So, Mike went down and worked for a couple days to check it out. He liked the job – it was a professional office position and the pay was higher, so he decided to take it.

The owner of Christopher’s wanted Mike to continue for a month so he could plan for Mike’s departure. Because they were friends, Mike got up every day at 6 a.m., worked at the restaurant until two in the afternoon, and then drove down to Business Furniture Corporation and worked for two to two and a half hours. By the time he started full time there, he was already trained for the job. Ironically, the lady who Business Furniture first asked to do the estimator job, wound up taking Mike’s old job at the restaurant.

A dog bite led to courtship
Mike met Mary through the Christian community they were involved in, but it took a dog bite to get them together. Mike already liked Mary, and one night she was out running and got bit on the leg by a dog. Mike took her to the emergency room and that was the start of their relationship.

Mike started working at Business Furniture in 1984 as estimator, and then moved to project management, to the assistant department head, and then senior project manager. He won employee of the month and the 1985 excellence award. In 1987 the company was bought out by an individual and a few weeks later he fired three divisions including the flooring division, so just like that Mike was out of a job. His boss tried to keep the team together, but at that time the big stock market crash happened, and nobody wanted to take on another independent division, so he started to apply at various other places.

When Mike was at Business Furniture, he had someone who was going to do a big ceramic job for him and he called Mike and said, “I’ve got to raise my price.” Mike replied, “Okay, I’ve got to fire you.” Mike had met one of the owners of Santarossa Mosaic & Tile, so he hired them to do the big ceramic job for him. Mike later attended a trade show with that owner, and they got along very well. While at the trade show Mike said to Mary, “I might wind up working for this guy one day.” Sure enough, Mike applied to several places and Santarossa was one of them. Mike got hired there in November of 1987 as a project manager, and almost 31 years later he’s still there, now the head of a division.

Wedding of Mary and Mike
Wedding of Mary and Mike
Wedding of Mary and Mike

Mike and Mary dated for about four years before they got married on May 13, 1989. They were one of the first couples to get married at Joy of All Who Sorrow. Their son Michael, Jr. was born in 1990. He is now 28 years old and 6’7″ tall.

Small and skinny no more
We asked Mike how he went from being a four pound baby to a small, skinny student in high school, to a six foot, three inch very strong man today. “Well,” he replied, “ I had a growth spurt in high school I grew like six to eight inches between my sophomore and junior year. So, before that I was a small skinny kid, and after that I was a tall skinny kid, and I stayed a relatively skinny until I was about 27. I weighed 170 pounds, and I decided to start doing serious work outs and some weight lifting. I went from about 170 pounds to 195 – 200 pounds. I started working out when I was 27 and haven’t stopped since then. I’m 64 now.” It’s true! During meetings hosted in his home, Mike exercises on a stationary bike. He and Mary are both ardent work out people. Mary goes to the gym and Mike does most of his at home in a workout area he set up in their barn.

Mike the artist

Pencil drawing
Pencil drawing
Pencil drawing

Through grade school and high school Mike did a lot of artwork, especially drawing houses and buildings. He also did superheroes and a lot of abstract art, usually using pencil, colored pencils, and magic markers. Later, as an adult, Mike started doing a lot of photographic art and now enjoys doing a lot of creative things with photography. Mike shares his photography on his personal Facebook page, but he also has a Facebook page called The World Through the Lens of Mike Drippé (https://www.facebook.com/The-World-Through-the-Lens-of-Mike-D-459471404251909/).

“I do a kind of photographic artwork,” Mike explained, “where I use sunlight and have it go through prisms, breaking it into the spectrum, and then have the spectral different colors go through glass objects. That projects on to white paper and creates very interesting colorful patterns and designs

Then I work with them to create works of art. Sometimes it’ll just be the pattern created on the paper that I take a photograph of; other times I combine several of them together. Mike has won first place in several contests, but he hasn’t had the time to enter any lately.

Spiritual Journey
In college Mike was interested in eastern philosophy, studying Hatha Yoga at an Ashram in Indy for a while. When he started studying philosophy he got involved in a lot of different things, in particular Native American spirituality and philosophical Taoism. But when he was about 25 or 26, his roommate got very involved in a local spiritual group, and he went to classes regularly. The group, which had centers in a number of cities in the US and abroad, taught mystical Christianity which Mike was interested in. Mike went to some of the classes with him. Eventually this led to Mike joining the Christian Community fellowship group.

After a few years, the group became more and more interested in historic Christianity – true Christianity as it was originally practiced. This led to an interest in Eastern Orthodoxy. The leader of the group met Father Herman, who traveled around the country and came several times to Indy to give talks and lectures. Mike got to know him well and Father Herman called him “the Professor” because Mike had started teaching church history and theology.

Conjunction of Sky and Sea
Conjunction of Sky and Sea
Conjunction of Sky and Sea

In 1985 the group converted to Orthodoxy and they were all baptized, eventually coming under the auspices of Metropolitan Joseph and the Bulgarian church, where we still are today.

Active in the church
Mike served as church treasurer from 1997 to February 2004 and again from March 2015 to today with a year’s break from April of 2016 to May of 2017. When the secretary of the board moved out of state in 2015, Mike took up that position as well.

Mike used to display his art at the Talbot Street Art Fair in the church hall, but the church also had Brother Juniper’s open during the fair. It became clear that they couldn’t manage without the participation of Mike, known humorously as the “Samurai Sandwich Maker”. So he gave up displaying his art in order to contribute to the greater good.

Mary and Mike today
Mary and Mike today
Mary and Mike today

His skills as a chef are in hot demand during our Old World Christmas Market, which is held the first weekend in December every year. Mike ran the St. Nicholas food booth for nineteen years; he is still in demand as the maker of the very popular beef stroganoff, which is a sought-after meal.

To close our interview, we asked Mike for a favorite quote from the Church Fathers. He cited St. Basil, “For [man] the law was made, commanding the imitation of the Creator in accordance with his powers and a reproducing upon earth as if in rough outline, of the good order of heaven.”* Mike explained that the good order of heaven that we should reproduce on earth comes through our creative actions, which is what he tries to do in his artwork.

We found another quote from St. Basil that fits right in with Mike’s art: “The sun penetrates crystal and makes it more dazzling. In the same way, the sanctifying Spirit indwells in souls and makes them more radiant. They become like so many powerhouses beaming grace and love around them.” ^

*Quote found at http://www.orth-transfiguration.org/st-basil-the-great-329-379/
^ Quote found at https://www.azquotes.com/author/1018-Saint_Basil

The Old World Christmas Market is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Old-World-Christmas-Village-Market-100509916683638/?fref=ts

Writer Anna Glass is a member of Joy. You would be an answer to her prayers if you sent her your comments, submission, or ideas for the blog: annetteglass03@gmail.com.

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