Celebrating the life of Ron Dippold

Ron Dippold at Eaglecrest Ski Area. He was a volunteer with the National Ski Patrol and the American Red Cross in Juneau for more than 50 years. (Photo courtesy Elisabeth Dippold)

Ron Dippold at Eaglecrest Ski Area. He was a volunteer with the National Ski Patrol and the American Red Cross in Juneau for more than 50 years. (Photo courtesy Elisabeth Dippold)

A celebration of life will be held at Eaglecrest Ski Area this weekend for the guy who probably taught first aid to more people in Juneau than anyone else.

Ron Dippold died in January at the age of 78.

He could tie bandages like nobody’s business,” says Juneau Ski Patrol member Mick Lowry.

He says Dippold could have written a book on first aid.

Dippold was a member of the National Ski Patrol for 52 years and taught first aid to patrollers from the beginning. He also taught first aid and CPR courses for the American Red Cross – not just to students but to instructors.

Ernie Mueller sometimes taught alongside Dippold.

He was kind of a guiding light for all the instructors that worked with him in the Red Cross,” Mueller says.

It’s rare for someone to stick with a volunteer endeavor for half a century, but it became a way of life for Dippold.

He grew up in western New York, attended forestry school, did a stint in the U.S. Navy then got back to the woods with the U.S. Forest Service. He was able to spend much of that forestry career in Juneau.

He also was Southeast Regional Director for the Alaska Division of the Red Cross for several years, but those who knew him best say it was the years he worked without pay that define his legacy.

“The volunteers that we have, they’re a gold mine to us, especially those that stay active for as long as Ron has,” says Red Cross Disaster Response Specialist Roger Rettig. “I don’t think we have anyone that’s close to six decades.”

In 2006, the Red Cross created a Southeast chapter volunteer of the year award and named it after Dippold. He was the first recipient.

“He was intense,” Rettig says. “He was serious about everything he taught, everything he said.”

Mueller says for many years Dippold was the face of the Red Cross in Juneau. He also helped people recover from disasters such as home fires and floods. And when he was teaching, he had a way of reaching them even when they didn’t want to be there.

“You know, you can teach a class and you can tell that this person is here because they have to be here. But when you’re teaching the ski patrol or Red Cross volunteers you’re teaching people who want to be there, because they want to be there for other people,” Mueller says. “I think Ron really responded to both groups.”

Maybe it was easier to teach those classes because he loved to bike, kayak and ski and wanted to be prepared himself.

“I know some of the people that are on the patrol now, he actually pulled them down in sleds when they were younger,” says ski patroller Lowry. When they joined the patrol, it was Dippold who taught them first aid.

Early in his ski patrol career, Dippold received what’s known as a National Appointment for demonstrating leadership and extraordinary service to the skiing public and the National Ski Patrol.

The appointment is for life, but a patroller can lose it. Lowry says Dippold just kept earning it.

“It’s a very prestigious award, there’s not a whole lot of them done. There’s maybe 20 in the whole state of Alaska,” he says.

Throughout his more than 50 years volunteering for the ski patrol and the Red Cross, Dippold had to continually keep up to date on the changing protocols for administering CPR and first aid. He never missed a re-certification.

Mueller believes he knows what drove Ron Dippold to be the ultimate volunteer.

He had an underlying belief that it was important for people to have skills in the event of an emergency, which might require somebody to get first aid treatment, or CPR, or even react to a natural disaster,” Mueller says.

Friends and family will gather at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Eaglecrest to celebrate Dippold’s contributions to their lives and to Juneau.

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