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  • Writer's pictureCatherine J Rippee-Hanson

The Best Laid Plans... a personal note

by Catherine J Rippee-Hanson

Sadly, this was the year that my brother,

James Mark Rippee died.

James Mark Rippee

April 17, 1963 - November 29, 2022

UPCOMING SERVICE Memorial Service Jan. 13, 2023 1:00 p.m. Vacaville Moose Lodge


As a result of untreated, severe mental illness, traumatic brain injury and homelessness, James Mark Rippee died on November 29, 2022. He was surrounded by family, including his mother, two sisters and a niece. He was 59 years old. The cause of death was pneumonia, sepsis, leading to multiple organ failure. However, his untimely death was a direct result of his deteriorating mental and physical health that could no longer be sustained living on the streets without medical care, treatment or housing that heals.

Surviving family: Lou Malinda Rippee, Mother; Catherine J Rippee-Hanson, Linda C (Rippee) Privatte, and Robin Lorraine Starnes, sisters. He is also survived by nieces Desiree Hanson, Kimber Starnes, Rachel Eichler, Sarah Privatte, Natalie Downing, Katie Rae Watts, and nephew Gregory Palomo, as well as 9 great-nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by James Thomas Rippee, father.

'Mark' was born in Walnut Creek, CA, and lived in Vacaville, CA, for 55 years. He attended Vacaville High School and was a member of the Vacaville Moose Lodge.

He loved camping, boating and fishing. At 24, his motorcycle crashed into a grain harvester. He lost both eyes and a third of his frontal lobes that regulate impulse control, reactions and emotions. Later on, he would suffer from paranoid schizophrenia, psychosis, and anosognosia, a condition that prevents him from understanding that he has a mental illness.

Since our laws allow for a more fundamental right to die than a right to treatment or housing that heals, he died without his civil liberties being violated. Not all civil rights are civil or right. He will no longer suffer in a world that could not accommodate him. His joking nature and the smile on his face through it all will be missed. The burdens he carried... fear, anxiety, and depression are gone... as well as the voices. Never again will he shiver in the cold or fade in the heat on a sidewalk. Those who loved him will always carry his memory in their hearts.

A memorial service will be held at the Vacaville Moose Lodge, 6585 Gibson Canyon Road, Vacaville, CA 95688, on Friday, January 13, 2023, at 1 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 801, Arlington, VA 22203.(https:///


to 'No One Cares About Crazy People', a film documentary in production that includes Mark's story, at Sustainable Markets Foundation, ATT: No One Cares, 45 West 36th St., 6th Floor, New York, NY 10018-7635 ( W00169870-image-1.jpg

Published by The Reporter on Dec. 14, 2022.

A Candlelight Vigil for James Mark Rippee was held Friday, December 16, 2022, at 4:30 p.m., at the William J Carroll Government Center, 1119 East Monte Vista Avenue, Vacaville, California, 95688. This was the location (County Building) where Mark slept for 16 years.

(Slideshow of Graphic drawings depicting Mark's life on the streets of Vacaville.)

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Robert Burns

Three days after my brother, Mark died, my daughter and I both tested positive for Covid. Unfortunately, Covid prevented Linda and I from attending the December 6th Solano County Board of Supervisor's meeting where we wanted to speak. With limited availability during the holidays and having to do everything online or by phone, planning the candlelight vigil and memorial has been very difficult. First and foremost, we worried about the weather and the possibility of rain. Inevitably, that became less likely. What a relief, I thought. We got through the worst thing that could happen to an outdoor vigil.

The next problem was enlarging photos and having only low-resolution digital files. In the end, I purchased a photo file enhancement program and taught myself how to boost the resolution to meet my printing needs. Only took me 3 days of frustration, with just enough time to upload for prints ordered and wait for delivery. Under pressure, success. It's okay, we've got this.

We were then informed by a third party that Gerald Huber from the County building wanted us to contact him. There was no mention of why... but Linda responded immediately and sent him an email, a little confused as to why he didn't contact us directly. We've been emailing him for years about Mark. He had both our email addresses. After about four days of stressful waiting for a reply from him wondering what he could possibly want, he finally responded that there would be a limited number of parking spaces at the county building where the vigil is to be held due to ongoing construction and to "have a good weekend." He knew about the planned vigil for several days before telling us of the parking problem. It would have been simpler to just send that message from the start. But we simply rushed to develop an alternative parking plan with local businesses with the help of our friend, Judy Baldwin and her husband, George. Next? After that, we realized that there were electrical issues and power problems for the candlelight vigil. Okay... we solved that problem with a generator. Meanwhile, in the local newspaper, the obituary I had written and submitted was missing after paying $1,300 and planning for it to be in the Sunday, Dec. 11th's edition. There were several days of frantic emails and phone calls to determine where the obituary was and why it was missing. How would anyone get the details for the vigil and the memorial plans? Four long days later, it was determined that it had been erroneously published somewhere in the state of Pennsylvania by mistake through the Legacy site because there are apparently many newspapers of the same name and the online system failed. There was at least an apology and a full refund. Finally, Vacaville's newspaper published the obituary just two days prior to the vigil on Wednesday. Great. So, by now, of course, Linda breaks out in a horrible rash, and thought it was an allergic reaction to a new medicine, but she ends up finding out it is the flu. Now she is severely sick. It is likely that our mom will become ill if she is exposed to the flu so Mom couldn't be around Linda and the rest of her family. There's nothing to worry about, I think. My time with Covid is over. At the vigil, I will stand in for both of us and ask our friend, Teresa Pasquini to read Linda's speech. The problem seems to have been resolved. It was beyond our control. Within a few hours of resolving Linda's crisis - I started experiencing familiar diverticulitis pains, which I had been attributing to stress for over a week... and then my A-Fib symptoms followed and intensified. The candlelight vigil is still a couple of days away, and I am thinking I can get through it, but eventually, it became unmanageable and led to my current state. Now Linda and I are both terribly sick. Unlike most times when our family members are able to gather after the death of a loved one, we have had to keep our distance, isolated from each other, and from anyone else. We are now completely exhausted, all of us dealing with health issues and planning the candlelight vigil, the next opportunity to speak at BOS, and the upcoming Memorial in January after the holidays. It's now clear to me what all the families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic have been going through with such an unforeseeable set of circumstances in isolation and trying to cope with a death in the family. The details of putting everything together in honor of their loved one while racked with guilt... anxiety... loneliness... a lack of human contact, hugs, or joking through tears while sharing stories. Trying to navigate the chaos with uncertainty and the feeling that nothing is going right. Karma, what the hell are you thinking?! My personal strength is my ability to solve problems. It is at the core of who I am. It doesn't matter if it's for me or for someone else. Despite keeping busy with decisions, lists, emails, posts, phone calls, messages, and texts...I still felt numb to my emotions since the day Mark passed away. And now as all the details and plans for the vigil have been placed in capable hands, and we have both been placed on bed rest, with tests, and medication...there is nothing left to do. There is nothing we can do about it. Even if the physical pain is terrible, it is nothing compared to the black cloud of fog in my head that begs the question of what it represents. I struggled to come up with a definitive answer. As I lay in bed writing... it suddenly came to me. What I was afraid to admit. What I don't want to believe. The insight. Exactly what Mark lived without, and I don't really want at the moment, that intangible mysterious sense of being and knowing the cause of my anguish. Knowing that I failed and being aware of it. In my life I have fought fiercely for others and good causes. Honestly, in most cases, I win. Don't get me wrong. Life has dealt me many tragic losses and much pain, and I've started over more times than anyone can imagine. Each time, it was great loss and new beginnings. Just life. I don't ask the universe why, and I never lost my confidence. I never felt like I failed. The black cloud in my head is what failure looks like... and feels like. The black fog of doubt, anxiety, and ultimately seeing it... the failure. The fact remains that I am my brother's keeper, and I failed him. The anxiety of impatience that kept getting in the way of my goals often caused me to be cynical of quick change. Even so, I pushed forward every day with a single-minded focus... to save Mark. I gave up social niceties and friendships. I devoted my entire life to it. Every parent, sibling, and family member who lives with the uncertainty of their loved ones' welfare understands this feeling. The constant presence of a tenseness and gnawing pain, and even fear in your daily life. Nevertheless, I clung to hope that we might have a chance at making a difference for others... and save Mark. Hope and cynicism. The juxtaposition of those two things in my life left me in a state of disorientation and surrounded by that damn black cloud of failure. The shocking and tragic end to my brother's life has left me with an open wound of grief and disbelief. While we predicted that Mark would die while untreated and homeless, we always believed that if we followed the law and fixed the ones with chasms... somehow... some way... or some person with power would come along, and we could save Mark from himself and from his brain disorder. In spite of our pleas to all within earshot and beyond - that we loved him and knew he needed help - the laws in place thwarted our efforts. It was a race - running in place against time to bring about change - that we lost. With the stress and frustration of both circumstances and health issues, the bill has now been left for us to pay. I'll have to dig deep. Our lives have been impacted by it for so many years. Still, it couldn't prepare us for this moment, not all the utter sadness and grief in advance. Linda and I were both crushed and deeply disappointed that we were unable to attend and speak at the candlelight vigil for Mark. Everything was in order for the vigil with the wonderful assistance of the Solano Unity Network. As my twin, Linda said, "It's not about us... it's about Mark." Like so much in our lives, we still seem to be running in place for now. Other families like ours and advocates of those with mental illness and brain disease are familiar with this kind of race. Being pumped up and anxious for answers or changes, only to be repeatedly disappointed. Slapped in the face with what you've feared all along because you believed in yourself, believed in hope... You believed in compassion, and you believed in change. I no longer know what my days hold. What can I do to make a difference? With Mark's legacy, perhaps... just maybe... prevent the next tragedy... as well as the next one just around the corner. I must carry on. But I must be stronger before I can move forward. Despite the failure, I still have hope for the future, and I don't even want to ask how. I think... I just don't know how to give up. I mean, because... well... it's not the right thing to do. It is only right that Mark's death be as meaningful to others as his life was to us. In the wake of his death, I hope that some of those chasms will begin to close, compassion will spread, and families will find some relief from the pain associated with these horrible brain disorders. Through that black cloud, maybe there's still a bit of blue sky. Maybe.

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C Mason
C Mason
Dec 18, 2022

Mark is “Home” now. He lived his life for many to witness in divine favor of being an example of how “God” would come to “Save” him and took him ”Home”. For his family to embrace “Faith” in the Lord (always) as your efforts, diligence, strength, passion, and above all else “Love” allowed Mark to be set free and go “Home”. Now it’s time for Marks family to realize, all of us on earth are only visitors for a time. Not necessarily a religion is the focus but true “Faith” in Jesus Christ is the goal. He answered your prayers by taking Mark where he could now see and be healed. Now it’s time for his family to rest, …


Dec 18, 2022

What a beautifully written article about a terrible loss.

There but for the grace of God, go I. So far.

Your loss belongs to all of us.

Mark belonged to all of us.

A great American tragedy.

My hope is in God to show us the way for people afflicted. Mankind isn't doing so well.

May you receive peace in this troubled time.


Dec 18, 2022

In the very worst of circumstances one meets the very best of people. I’ve found this to be absolutely true in my side by side journey with my son, who has suffered unconscionably from schizophrenia for 26 years now. You, Linda and most of all Mark have inspired me to support and advocate in whatever way I’m tasked to do on any given day, and to never, ever, ever give up. Thank you all and bless you for showing all of us what true love and devotion is all about. 🙏🙏🙏❤️❤️❤️

Catherine J Rippee-Hanson
Catherine J Rippee-Hanson
Dec 18, 2022
Replying to

Thank you for reaffirming that what we do has meaning for others as well. I hope that the system changes so that your son can be saved. 💚

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