In combat, he risked his life to lay phone lines along the floor of the jungle. At home in Maine, he was equally comfortable climbing a utility pole to repair damaged wires, no matter how dangerous the weather.

Ibra L. Ripley Jr., better known as “Rip,” made his mark fighting for his country during World War II and keeping the power on for Mainers during peacetime.

Mr. Ripley, a Rockland native and a longtime resident of Lewiston, died Monday morning at Maine Medical Center in Portland. He was 88.

“He enlisted in the Army after Pearl Harbor,” said a son, Ibra L. “Chip” Ripley III of Denmark, “because he wanted his choice of war theaters. He told me he didn’t want to be digging foxholes in Eastern Europe. He preferred a warmer climate.”

Mr. Ripley graduated from Rockland High School in 1939.

He followed his father, Ibra L. Ripley Sr., by going to work for Central Maine Power Co., where he started out clearing brush from power lines. Ibra Ripley Sr. was a line foreman for CMP.

In 1942, Mr. Ripley enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division — known as the “Tropic Lightning” unit. The division was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

During World War II, he was a signal corpsman, running communications lines through the jungles of the Solomon Islands and the Philippines.

He fought at the battles of Guadalcanal and New Georgia in the Solomon Islands and at Luzon in the Philippines.

He eventually rose to the rank of master sergeant.

“I remember him telling me that it (the war) was the making of him. After all, he was only 19 years old,” his son said.

His other son, Barry Ripley of Gray, said the division was called Tropic Lighting because its members became known for their rapid response to a battle situation.

“They became a crack outfit,” his son said.

During his military time in the Pacific, Mr. Ripley earned the Asiatic-Pacific campaign ribbon with two bronze battle stars and the Philippines Liberation ribbon with one bronze star.

After the war ended, Mr. Ripley returned to work for Central Maine Power Co. He worked for the line and safety departments before joining management. Mr. Ripley was director of safety for a number of years and retired in 1984 as western division manager, his son said.

“He became the director of safety just around the time that hard hats were being introduced and the company was converting to higher voltage power lines,” his son said.

During his time with CMP, Mr. Ripley’s family lived in Rumford and eventually Lewiston, where he lived for nearly 40 years. He served on the board of directors for Rumford Community Hospital and for Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

Mr. Ripley’s health had declined over the past three years and he moved to the Maine Veterans Home in Scarborough.

One of his favorite pastimes over the years was sailing.

His son remembers his father telling of when he and a friend, both 12 at the time, sailed out of Rockland Harbor and north to Camden.

Mr. Ripley later purchased a 30-foot sailboat and named it the Elsie May after his wife. She died in 1999. They were married for 46 years.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]