Kathy Flippo: Life of a River Rat

Kathy Flippo proudly calls herself River Rat and runs a commentary at her site entitled Tow Talkin’. The articles she writes is part of the Little River Books website, which sells her books and other authors’ books concerning the rivers of America and river life. Like Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) it seems the river runs through her veins. Kathy is also the author of several books about the history of the great rivers, specifically those in her area, of America. My grandmother (father’s side) lived in Hannibal, Missouri as a child, and whose maiden name was Rosenbrook, also had a relative who was a captain in the American Civil War – today his sword hangs in our home in my son’s room. History is not just dates and places on a map, it can be personal and we live history every day. Kathy has kept alive a portion of our American heritage in her written words, spoken words and, as friend Quills, puts it – “her house is a museum” – with artifacts of what she writes about. Winner of several awards, she is an impressionable person – full of vitality and humor.

Life on the river is interesting, and because her husband, Pat (pictured sitting together in their new home) is a retired river boat captain, Kathy has real life experiences to write about.

Kathy and Pat Flippo - October 2006Kathy and Pat have also been part of a fight to save the historical part of South ClintonIowa, but failed to save her historical home and others in her neighborhood. She now lives on the Illinois side of the river in a new home she acquired through the real estate deal offered by the corporation that purchased that part of historical South Clinton to turn it into an innovative venture that will produce plastic material from locally grown corn. In her move she and friends rescued as much as was salvageable to prevent it from being bulldozed and hauled off to the dump. Things like vintage windows and other things part of the historical buildings.
As has happened on many occasions in American history, historical sites have fallen away to progress. Kathy has been invited as a guest speaker by historical organizations and others who are interested in her knowledge of the river and its history. Recently she won the President’s Medal for Excellence, awarded by the Corps of Engineers for Kathy’s work with the local river commission concerning the tow boat industry, the same boat that Pat used to pilot up and down the local river.
I have had the pleasure of being introduced to Kathy and her interesting life through Quills, Iowa who is a Friend of LJ, and whose submissions you will see within the archives of this e-journal/blog. Here is a brief biography …
Obviously anyone born on April First has got to be strange and Kathy Flippo certainly is! She is a river rat in every way. A third generation Beaver Islander, she knew how to row long before she could ride a bicycle.Beaver Island is the largest island in the Upper Mississippi River from approximately mile 512 to 517 and is nine miles in a diamond shaped circumference. There are pretty lakes in the island connected by Upper Cut and Lower Cut that are filled with fish. Ducks, geese, rabbits, squirrels, deer and turkey also live there. For trapping there are beaver, mink and muskrat. A true sportsman’s – river rat’s heaven and Kathy has done, and does it all.
Her dad, Adrian Lundeen, was well known in the area of 
ClintonIowa and AlbanyIllinois as a master mechanic of Evinrude outboard motors, a decoy maker, maple syrup maker, commercial fisherman and trapper, and wildlife artist.
Her mother, 
Florence Lundeen, was a second generation Beaver Islander and was talented with a crochet hook, watercolors and was a master gardener.
She is married (25 years) to Capt. Pat Flippo who originated in the Bootheel Swamp, east 
Missouri and is a retired 50-year towboat captain. They currently live at mile 513 on the UMR in the village of AlbanyIllinois with a clear near view of the main channel and the ARTCO fleeting area at the foot of Beaver Island. They also enjoy watching the egrets, blue herons, white pelicans, herring gulls, cormorants and Canada geese out front. The back yard is a tree covered bluff and one has to be a Billy goat to navigate it but it teems with song birds which are enjoyed and fed by Pat and Kathy. They share their home with Troubles, their 16-year-old tortoise-shell cat who definitely rules the roost.
Kathy, being an only kid, hung out with her dad and learned outboard mechanics, trapping, commercial fishing, duck hunting from a scull boat, decoy making, but the only talent in painting that she inherited is slapping paint on walls. For ten years while living in Osage County, Missouri she wrote a weekly column, Beyond Hope for the weekly newspaper, The Unterrified Democrat one of the oldest newspapers in Missouri. Beyond Hope not because Kathy is crazy, but she lived five mi
les from the village of Hope, population 13. The stories of her neighbors, life on the farm and the adventures in the milking parlor will be the next book.
Because of her strange (according to most people) childhood and her way of life as an adult, she started putting all her experiences and those of others on paper which in turn develops into books. These are Beaver Island RememberedBack to Beaver 
IslandBetween the Saints: Louis and Paul and Between the River and the Rails: South Clinton. Hilarious history is the best description of her writing.
Thanks to Quills and Kathy for this informative and interesting information and a glimpse at a portion of America that has been and continues to be a part of American history, just as Quills interest in Rendezvous reenactments she attends now and then.
UPDATE: Kathy and her husband Pat passed away, Kathy just recently, since the writing of this wonderful couple … my deepest and sincerest condolences to family and friends in the passing of Kathy. There memory lives on and part of American history through the literature and memorabilia left behind by Kathy.