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Sunspots - Bonnie Tipcke 122113

I was cheerful, but not in a spirit of Christmas way, when I entered the Victorian home of Bonnie and Maurice “Tip” Tipcke. Though I’d been there before at holiday time, I stared with child-like wonder at the sight of the first decorated Christmas tree and smiled seeing the lush garland of holiday greenery that adorns the staircase in the vestibule.

Do you see what I see? There was more to come.

“I have 24 Christmas trees throughout the house,” said Bonnie. “I include in the total the ones with lights on them.

“I have always loved Christmas. My current decorating addiction started in 1984 when I saw some Hallmark ornaments in a secondary price guide for collectibles and I could not believe the values that were listed. Prior to that, I had been buying my kids each one ornament a year,” she said.  

Bonnie starts the decorating process “as early as possible” in November. “I usually finish about a half hour before the first party. We have several gatherings during December and into January, many of them with University of Minnesota, Morris students and staff as well as others. We always have at least three family Christmas get-togethers, too.” Each year Bonnie plans a surprise theme around which she decorates for the family dinner, “while the kids cook.” Some of the decorations she has collected over the years stem from these annual themes.

“I assumed I would be done decorating much earlier this year since I’m retired, but I found out that is not the case. Because I start decorating in November and don’t take things down until at least February, I have to have artificial trees…all of them.”

Tall and short, large and small, each tree is decorated around a particular theme. There’s a spoon tree and a food tree in the eating and cooking area of the house and a fishing tree in the laundry room reflecting one of Tip’s hobbies. A tree trimmed with cartoon characters and a colored garland cut from the Sunday newspaper comics stands in one corner of the living room, and miniature trees with mini lights and ornaments add holiday sparkle. A white-flocked tree with gold and white ornaments decorates the bay window in the dining room and delicate white snowflakes hung with monofilament line cascade from the center to the corners of the dining room ceiling. A transportation tree topped with the latest purchase — a stoplight — sits in a corner of another room. Additional tree themes include Barbie, Madame Alexander, Santa's Workshop, Crayola, Santas, patriotism, the North Pole, angels, sports, toys, birds and wildlife, mice, and puppies, oh my!

Born in Redwood Falls, Bonnie started first grade in Milroy and moved in the middle of third grade to Belview, where she graduated.

“I moved to Morris to attend UMM where I met my first husband Tom Eidem,” said Bonnie. “Following Tom’s graduation from UMM, we moved to Tucson, Arizona, with our son, Tom.” The family moved back to Morris in 1970. “I went back to work in the Student Counseling office, where I had worked prior to moving to Tucson, and continued working on my degree. In 1975, our daughter Cassie was born.” Both son Tom and daughter Cassie graduated from Morris High School and UMM. Bonnie holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English, also from UMM.

Bonnie retired in April from the University of Minnesota, Morris Multi-Ethnic Student Program after 43 years on the staff at UMM. In addition to MSP, “I worked in the offices of Student Counseling, Admissions and Financial Aid, and Plant Services.”

Tip worked at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus for 18 years prior to moving to Morris, where he worked as the building and grounds upervisor on the Morris campus for 14 years. He retired in 1998.

In addition to children Tom and Cassie, “I have the best kids-in-law and four of the most adorable grandsons — Quinn, Cooper, Sawyer and Max — anyone could ask for,” said Bonnie. Two sisters still live in Belview.

When it comes to the holiday decorating, “it’s all Bonnie,” said Tip. Though Bonnie added, “Tip is great at fixing broken ornaments, making me short electric cords because you can’t buy them short enough, and he does all of the outside decorating.” Tip also devised a way to hang the dining room snowflakes, which is a challenging task.

As for storing all the trees and decorations, “We have a walk up attic,” said Bonnie. “I disassemble the three seven-foot trees, but the rest I don’t.”  

In addition to her passion for Christmas trees, “I think of myself as a scrap-booker, but what I do best is buy supplies,” said Bonnie. “I make all my cards, however — I really like doing that — and one of these days I really will scrapbook the lives of my grandsons.

“I have a big garden in the summer, primarily flowers. I’m a collector at heart and especially love a variety of glassware. Genealogy is another interest, although I have not done much with that for several years.” Bonnie also plays drums with the Morris Community Band.

“I guess Christmas is my opportunity to try to give my friends, family, and other people I don’t know all that well, a Christmas experience that they might never otherwise have,” said Bonnie. “I put a lot into my decorating and am so rewarded when people enjoy seeing the results.  There is nothing like the look in a little child’s eyes the first time they come here.  It makes it all worthwhile.”

As I left this home that is filled with memories of family, friends and other visitors, and the warmth of holiday celebrations present and past, I was renewed with the thought of the true meaning of Christmas, as I was taught from a young age and have believed since.

So, to friends and family and those I don’t know all that well, have yourself a merry little Christmas.