In Memory of Burt

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Dedicated in memory of Burt – a great friend to everyone!

The Burt Lipe we all love dearly and will remember for many years to come!

A passing in Skaneateles

By Miranda L. Pennock and Dwayne Houghton 10/21/08

“He always had his door open to anybody… made sure everybody felt welcome,” Shane Lipe said.

Those words he said were about his father, Darryl “Burt” Lipe, whose life was cut short October 10, 2008. Burt will be remembered for many years to come.

The owner of Morris’s, a well-known bar and grill in Skaneateles, Burt was a friend, a husband, a father. For 28 years, Burt’s name has been synonymous with Morris’s, the bar that is lauded as an everyman’s watering hole and the place that has seen generations come through its doors. “He touched everyone that he met in their mind, body and soul,” Shane said. Lined up along the edge of the bar on Thursday Oct. 15, Burt’s family — his wife, MJ, and sons Shane, James Goss and Chris Goss — talked about the man they all adored and the loss they have endured. Their memories of Burt shine brighter than the loss, though, as each retold the barkeep’s stories. “He always put a smile on people’s faces,” James said as a smile of his own gently swept across his lips. The Lipe home was always open to the boys’ friends and Burt had a big impact on many of their lives, James said. “He was always there for sporting events,” Chris said. As each of them went off to college, Burt had them return home with a school pennant so he could proudly display them along the wall of the bar. Along with college paraphernalia, there’s an American flag that graces the east wall above the tables, a flag which is tied to a different kind of education. “This is the flag I flew off my vehicle while I was in Iraq,” said Shane, who served overseas during the war. “I told him he would know what to do with it.” And he did. Burt had the Stars and Stripes mended, repaired and framed. Complementary to the flag, at the time of his death, Burt continued to hang a star in the window of the bar for his son. “He was my best friend as well as my father,” Shane said. “I’m very thankful that I had him as a father as well as a friend.”

Next to his family, one of his greatest loves was racing — all types of racing. “We got into racing when I was 7,” Shane said. “He was always there… He got into road racing and traveled up and down the east coast.” In his honor, the family and close friends took Burt’s Mustang, drove up to Watkins Glen on Oct. 14 and held a private memorial service.  Afterward they did what they felt was right. “We all did a lap around the track,” MJ said. As Shane put it, they went “to run a few hot laps, burn some brakes up.” A member of the community his entire life — the son of Tippy and Pinky Lipe, his family grew up in Skaneateles — Burt loved boating and water-skiing.  To get ready for the summer and fall months, he would volunteer his time to help put the community docks in and then take them out. When helping with the physical end of the task got to be too much, he supplied those who could get their hands dirty with cold beverages and snacks. “He was a big supporter of the community,” Chris said. Burt did anything and everything he could to help by holding fundraisers and cook offs for a variety of groups — the food pantry, SAVES, the Girl Scouts and many more organizations. He was the originator of the Short Fat Man’s Race which has grown in popularity and been moved from Skaneateles to Syracuse. The proceeds from the event go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “Anybody who asked for a donation, he’d give,” MJ said. “His kindness was unlimited.” Even in his passing, Burt continues to give. In lieu of flowers, those calling at the funeral home were asked to make a donation to the Skaneateles Food Pantry. His love of family and community extended to his bar family as well — his employees. “We always had an employee party and he’d take us out to dinner,” said Gracie Maurillo, manager at Morris’s and a 30-year employee. As a boss, she said Burt was very understanding, the best boss, and most of the people that have worked at the bar and left for one reason or another, have also come back.

Guest column: By Dwayne Houghton

If you’re from Skaneateles or visit the town frequently, then chances are good that you may have spent a little time in the small saloon called Morris’s Grill. It’s the kind of good little bar that we all look for whenever we travel. It’s even world famous. Go there a few times and the bartenders will get to know your name and what you like. A bad day at work? Stop off and have something to put a little color back in your motivation. A holiday? Celebrate. It’s always open and odds are good that a couple of your friends are already there. The place has served as a rite of passage for those who have reached the legal drinking age, a place to toast an upcoming marriage or a maybe the birth of a child. You can have a beer, a sandwich maybe or possibly, without even trying, meet someone you’ll never forget. Everyone comes away from the place with a story or two.  And with all that came Burt Lipe, the owner.

His presence was considered synonymous with the very name of the place; you couldn’t think about one without the other. Ham and eggs, salt and pepper, Burt and the Grill. It was sort of a natural expression. Two weeks ago, Burt left us, suddenly, and we’re all still a little stunned. Sooner or later everyone loses a member of the family. It’s inevitable.

Everyone will gather from all the points where our lives have taken us, and pay our respects, have a reception, say goodbye to loved ones still living and we’ll go home to mourn in our own way. It’s a little different with Burt. No one seems ready to go home. If you see things in such terms, he has about 500 brothers and sisters or more and they all have a Burt story that they want to tell. But there just isn’t enough time, there are so many.

“There’s a pair that will beat a full house,” he’d say if you came in with friend. Then he’d buy a round for the house. Always there earlier than most of us get up in the morning, checking the previous nights activity, he’d make coffee for what he called ‘The Breakfast Club,’ a select few that would stop and have a cup of Joe before going off to where the day would take them. Before going, though, there was always story swapping of some sort. Burt, his narratives often stemming from his motorcycle racing days, all seemed to start with “There I was,” (fill in exploit here) and end with “then all of a sudden,  (this, that, whatever) broke.” Funny stuff. He had an open book smile, pulled no punches, loved his wife and his ‘toys’ and could wield a wrench on a car like Jesse James could use a Colt in a gunfight. He built his own car by hand, by himself and it was thunder on four wheels. When he wasn’t doing a few burn-outs on a Labor day with it, he would take it to one of his favorite places, Watkins Glen. “Ride ‘er ‘till she throws you,” he’d say when at the wheel. “Then get back on.” He was generous, loud, funny, friendly and he so loved what he called his ‘shot and beer kind of saloon.’

“If you didn’t hear it from me, you don’t know what’s going on,” he’d say to idle chatter. That was Burt; honest question, honest answer.

If you get back to Morris’s Grill, look around. You might not see him, but count on it, he’s there. And if  you stay until closing, you might hear his familiar — “Rock n’ Rollers! Last call!”

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