The Good Neighbor Awards have been part of the Good Neighbor Festival since 1980 and have been given to people of all ages and from all walks of life. The award has also been given to businesses, social service agencies and churches.
Good Neighbor Festival is honored to have Good Neighbor Award Winners in 2017!
The Middleton Good Neighbor Award has been awarded to Edwin “Bird” Acker, centenarian Middleton farmer, and posthumously to Al Ripp, the director of Middleton Outreach Ministry at the time of his passing.
Both award winners are being recognized for their service to the Good Neighbor Festival as well as to the community.
Edwin “Bird” Acker is the gentleman who for many years has driven the 1959 Farmall 560 tractor in the Good Neighbor Festival Parade that pulls the Sponsor Trailer. Acker is just three months shy of turning 101, and his family confirms that both he and his tractor are going strong.
Acker was born on the family farm on Highway Q in 1916. He dropped out of school in the 6th grade to help his dad milk cows and grow crops. In 1936 he went to work on a farm on High Road in the Town of Springfield. In 1936 he married the farmer’s daughter, Apollonia. When her parents passed away Acker took over operations at the farm. Acker and Apollonia raised eight children on the farm. He has outlived Apollonia and many of his friends. He is driving the Farmall tractor around the farm to this day.
Acker has been a long-standing member of the Middleton Farmers Co-op and a loyal patron of the Middleton community. He is a parishioner of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Middleton.
Acker will get the day off from driving the tractor in the parade, as he’ll take his place of honor as an award recipient who’ll be driven down the parade route in a convertible.
Al Ripp has been posthumously awarded the Middleton Good Neighbor Award following a unanimous nomination by the Middleton Good Neighbor Festival Board of Trustees. While nominations usually come from the community for neighbors to recognize fellow neighbors, the Good Neighbor Festival Board of Trustees wanted to honor Ripp’s incredible spirit and dedication to the community because for many years Ripp was a fellow GNF Trustee.
GNF Trustees saw Ripp’s commitment to the Good Neighbor City first hand, and he served many other service agencies and sat on several other boards with the same dedication and purpose that he brought to the Good Neighbor Festival.
Ripp was most familiar to Middletonians as the Director of Middleton Outreach Ministry. Under Ripp’s direction MOM expanded its services as need across the City grew. He gave the organization community prominence among business leaders and clients alike, all while being both affable and incredibly accessible to everyone around him.
City Administrator Mike Davis said Ripp was naturally a leader of the community by his actions. “He cared with a compassionate and loving heart for his family, church and community,” says Davis. “He also lived his faith as a Christian in a very humble manner.”
Davis also served with Ripp on the United Way Days of Caring program.
Ripp began his career with TDS in 1974 and between that time and his retirement from TDS in 2013, he received many “TDS Telecom Inspiring Excellence” awards. His charitable work at TDS led to his being
named the Director of MOM, but in addition to his professional giving, Ripp spent much of his free time as a dedicated volunteer with numerous clubs and organizations throughout the Verona, Middleton and Cross Plains areas.
The loss of Al Ripp diminishes Middleton only for the time being. The Festival Board trusts that the example Ripp set to be gracious and humble in giving of time and talents to the community will spark many others to act as Ripp did, continuing his legacy in the Good Neighbor City for many years to come.
Al Ripp will be represented in the Good Neighbor Festival Parade by friends of Middleton Outreach Ministry. In honor of Ripp, please bring a non-perishable food item to donate. Boy Scouts will be collecting the food along the parade route.