ELMORE - When Harold Hilpipre died, Elmore lost someone who quietly made the town a better place.
Hilpipre and his wife, Jean, opened Hilpipre Oil Co. on Highway 169 in December 1952, and it has been a mainstay in town ever since. Residents liked not having to drive several miles to neighboring towns to fill up their tanks.
Hilpipre took that responsibility seriously, says Cinda Hagedorn, manager of the Wildcat Cafe. Hilpipre ate lunch from the Wildcat often, but rarely in the restaurant.
MISSED?— A tribute to Harold Hilpipre and his love of fishing was on display at the gas station he founded in Elmore. Hilpipre ran the station for 62 years.
"Jean would come up and pick them up," Hagedorn said. "He didn't leave that station."
The front window of the station recently had a full display in honor of Hilpipre. Under the slogan "Gone Fishing one last time" was his picture, lots of fishing gear, and the "Fisherman's Prayer."
Hilpipre was known for his fishing and his family.
"Big family and close-knit family," noted Elmore resident Lois Wegner. "He loved to fish."
But as much as people appreciated the full service Hilpipre was famous for and the handy fill-ups, it was Hilpipre's way of helping out that most will miss, according to Elmore residents taking a break at the Wildcat Cafe.
"He was a very good 'grandpa,'" Wegner said. "I don't know how many flat bicycle tires he put air in."
"I'd tell him, 'Harold, you have to charge,'" recalled Pat Coupanger. "He said, 'But I never do.'"
"I know Harold helped a lot of people who didn't have money at all," said Hagedorn, adding that Hilpipre would take fuel oil to people who were short on funds.
According to Hagedorn, when Hilpipre got sick two years ago, he thought about closing the station.
"Jean said they had to keep it open for the community," said Hagedorn, adding that Jean Hilpipre has plans to continue running the station.
But it won't be the same without the man behind the counter.
"He always had that friendly smile," said Greta Haler.
"He was just a man who added a lot to Elmore in a nice, nice way," said Wegner.