"I had to drag Gogo, kicking and screaming into the country, but once she got here she didn’t want to leave. And, she didn’t," Austin "Kip" Kiplinger told more than 500 friends and family members seated under a huge white tent located behind historic Montevideo, the Kiplinger family home since 1958.
The remark was spoken at the July 28 "Celebration of the Life of Gogo Kiplinger." The service of music and recollections followed an earlier burial ceremony July 21, in the private cemetery behind their 1828 Seneca home. She died at home, July 15, from ovarian cancer.
Mary Louise Cobb Kiplinger, born March 14, 1919, became Gogo, during her teenage years growing up in Winnetka, Illinois. Her mother, who gave her the name, indicated it was a reflection on her teenage life style. During World War II, her mother also proclaimed she was "a one-person USO."
Gogo was a graduate of New Trier High School, Winnetka, and attended the Warrenton (Va.) Country School where she studied French, English literature and Shakespeare.
Her penchant for entertaining never waned throughout her life as wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Montevideo, restored by the Kiplingers in 1958, was the scene of tennis and swim parties for young and old; barn dances that attracted guests of all stations in life from farmers to ambassadors; the annual Potomac Hunt steeplechase races and the annual Potomac Hunt Thanksgiving Day fixture.
Gogo did not share her husband’s love of foxhunting, or riding. "When she moved to the country she thought a horse was something to bet on, not get on," her son, Knight Kiplinger, said.
STORIES OF GOGO’S sense of humor, sometimes bawdy, are legend. She not only loved to tell a good joke, but was just as anxious to hear one. "She had a wit and zany sense of humor and loved bawdy stories," Knight, related. He recalled the time his mother accidentally locked herself in the downstairs powder room, "and waited several hours for Dad to get home." When Kip finally arrived home from his Kiplinger Magazine editor’s office, he found an anxious Gogo very thirsty. "There was plenty of water at her disposal. It was just that water wasn’t exactly her beverage of choice," Knight said. Certainly not at that moment.
The story told by Kip explains how he quenched Gogo’s thirst prior to her rescue. "I tried unsuccessfully to break the lock and when I couldn’t do that I took the doorknob out. This left a small opening where the spindle went through," he explained. Mixing a cold martini next, he found a flexible straw, shoved it through the hole, and while he held the refreshment on one side of the door, she sipped on the other. Thus fortified, Gogo waited patiently until Kip got his rotary saw, cut the bottom panel out of the 100-year-old door and crawled through.
Gogo’s interests were not limited to entertaining alone. She was first and foremost a fulltime homemaker. While her sons Knight and Todd were growing up she was a Sunday school teacher, Cub Scout den mother and PTA member. She also tutored adult literacy classes in Montgomery County.
On the lighter side, following the youngest son’s vacating the family home for a college career, the story of Kip’s homecoming from work that evening, will be passed on for generations. Free at last, Gogo rose to the occasion by greeting Kip, at the kitchen door, in the buff, and a martini in each hand.
KNIGHT RECALLED THAT as a youngster, he asked his parents how they met. "Your father picked me up," was always Gogo’s reply. A more detailed report came from his father, who at the time was a Navy aviator, stationed in Ft. Lauderdale.
The story goes: it was during World War II, March ’43. Kip and a friend were cruising in a convertible when they spotted two lovely girls, a brunette and a blonde, in their bathing suits, walking home from the beach. The two Navy officers drove by, took note, circled around and came back. They did it three times before stopping to ask the lovely ladies if they needed a ride. After all, it was war time, and everyone offered rides. The two ladies accepted, and the first words Kip ever heard from his future wife, as she got in the car, were, "Well, it’s about time."
A short courtship, interrupted by his serving an eighteen-month tour of duty, including a year in the South Pacific, was followed by 63 years of marriage. "How did you know she was the one?" a son asked his dad. "It was her letters," was the reply. He saved them all. Incidentally, the lovely brunette who accompanied Gogo when she was "picked up" was her mother!
"Gogo kept us laughing which was her most wonderful gift," her grandson, Bringham Kiplinger, said during the hour-long service. But, there was also a serious side to this lady, admired by so many. Reading "Children" from Khalil Gibran’s, "The Prophet," Gogo’s son Todd said, "She memorized whole passages from this book."
She was also more than serious about the blue bird boxes and purple martin houses she installed throughout the farm. Her birding did not stop in Seneca. She was a supporter of the Ornithology Laboratory at Cornell University, where her husband was an alumnus and later board chairman for many years, and from where both sons graduated.
Cornell president emeritus, Frank H. T. Rhodes, while addressing the crowd said, "I have never remembered a memorial service that has had such a great sense of celebration."
SHE LOVED THE Seneca/Poolesville area and enjoyed the company of her country neighbors as well as her city cohorts. Knight, who was chief spokesman at the celebration, mentioned their neighbors, the Allnutt family and paid tribute to the late Benoni Allnutt’s recent funeral. "He was the patriarch of Poolesville," he told Benoni’s widow, Sarah, and their children Tom and Caroline, who were in the audience.
At the reception following the service, another neighbor, Billie Poole, recalled when Gogo would arrive in the late afternoon at Poole’s Store in Seneca. "She would come in and if Raymond [Poole] was delivering hay we would have ‘Happy Hour.’ As soon as Raymond returned ‘Happy Hour’ was over," she reminisced.
A lover of music and dance ("She was the most exuberant dancer, but sometimes hard to follow," Knight quipped), Gogo would have loved the service planned in her honor. It was a bright, sunny July day with a gentle breeze blowing. The musical program of her favorite hymns sung by all, plus renditions of several selections by The Washington Chorus, and multiple generations of family and friends in attendance was a fine tribute.
In addition to her husband, sons, and their wives, she is also survived by a nephew and niece, John Grandin of Poolesville and Daphne Grandin Micheletti of Arizona, whom she raised following their parents’ deaths; six grandchildren; two great-grandchildren and a brother, the Rev. John P. Cobb of Massachusetts. Her sister, Elizabeth Cobb Grandin, pre-deceased her.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Rd. Ithaca, NY 14850.