By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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R. Leo Shipley, longtime member and benefactor, donated the 9-acre mobile home park, which caters to the 55-and-older age group, to the senior center — which will bear his name as of Monday in recognition of his longtime support and many donations.
At 86 years old, Shipley said he decided to deed the $1.7 million property to the center at 921 E. Hammond St. because, as he said, “You can't take it with you.”
“One of these days, I'm gonna kick the bucket,” Shipley said. “It's not going to do anybody any good then.”
Senior center Director Michael Smith said all involved with the center “are just thrilled” with the gift.
“I checked with United Way, and we believe it is one of if not the largest individual donation to an organization in Clallam County,” Smith said.
The senior center now will manage Baywood Village.
Smith said lease revenue from the park is expected to provide the center with $10,000 a month.
Most if not all of that, Smith said, will be put into the capital fund for building a new senior center on property north of U.S. Highway 101 near Washington Street and Simdars Road.
Shipley donated $218,542.81 in 2010 to purchase 4.48 acres of the lot where the new facility is planned.
Additional donors allowed the center to purchase more land last year to bring the total site to 5.8 acres.
Last December, Shipley again added to the center's coffers, donating a $170,000 collection of platinum, gold and silver coins and bullion, Smith said.
In recognition of Shipley's donations, now totaling more than $2.2 million, Smith said the Sequim Senior Activity Center's board of directors has decided to rename both the current center and the future building the Shipley Center.
The name change will be official Monday, and the new name will appear over the next three months on official literature, signs and the center's bus, Smith said.
“This may have been possible without him, but it would have been indescribably harder,” Smith said.
“It's an enviable position for any nonprofit to be in, to have a benefactor like Mr. Shipley.”
A retired teacher, coach and real estate developer from Oklahoma with an oil-country drawl, Shipley is active in the senior center's activities.
“It's a great place, and I've made some wonderful friends there,” Shipley said.
Shipley's son is deceased, and he said he is estranged from his daughter, so he wanted to leave a legacy in the town he fell in love with and moved to Sept. 25, 1973.
He remembered the line where the rain would stop and the patented Dungeness Valley sun would shine, where an old church that was later turned into a real estate office used to be.
“You come up over the hill, and there's that sun just shining away,” he said, recalling early trips to rainier parts of the Northwest.
He said he wants to watch the senior center progress from its existing 10,000-square-foot structure to the new two-story center, which is planned to be nearly double the size. The center has about 1,600 members, Smith said, with 300 using it weekly.
Shipley decided to donate Baywood Village to the center now so he could aid it in a transition.
“I'll be around to help them be aware of certain things — where the pipes are and all that,” Shipley said.
“That way, they don't have to learn it cold.”
The grounds currently are kept by residents of the mobile home park who will continue to do so.
Baywood Village also has a security guard who doubles as an emergency water and septic system repair man, Smith said.
Shipley will continue to manage the park's water and septic systems until he no longer can.
“He really cares about all the people who live in Baywood Village and wants to make sure none of this changes their lives,” Smith said.
Senior center staff will manage lease agreements and rental payments, all of which Smith said they have the ability to handle by expanding the hours of current employees.
The most recent estimate for the cost of the center, Smith said, is $10.4 million.
As of Tuesday, the center had about $200,000 in its construction fund, including $18,000 raised during a gala fundraiser auction in May.
The center is seeking grants, donations, corporate sponsorships and endowments to bolster the fund.
This weekend, the senior center will put vintage treasures on sale for the eighth annual benefit sale in two vacant stores at the Bell Creek Plaza on East Washington Street.
Last year's sale raised $26,000, Smith said.
The sale runs Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.