Chuck Kilpatrick, 1935-2020
You would think that a person would revel in a nickname like “Mr. Bishop,” but even though it was a moniker that rolled off the tongue, Chuck Kilpatrick wasn’t quite satisfied with it.
More than a few times over the years, when approached about doing a profile for this paper, Mr. Kilpatrick would demur. He didn’t have the time to sit still for an interview. He really didn’t. Just consult the list of activities in his official obit which appears on page 14.
But he did remark, at one point while he was volunteering at yet another function, pouring yet another drink, exchanging yet another pleasantrty that perhaps Mr. Bishop was too limiting.
He wanted to be Mr. Inyo County. And one could certainly make a case for it.
And for our purposes, I see no reason why we shouldn’t update the name to honor his passing.
Mr. Inyo died last month with his wife Mary Mae and daughter Tammy by his side. He was 85.
The Sheet spoke to many folks about Mr. Kilpatrick this week. This is what they had to say:
David Bhakta: We moved to Bishop in ’89, having bought the old Schat’s Inn next to the park. From the moment of our arrival, he was so welcoming … and on Halloween, our kids always wanted to visit the Kilpatrick house because they stocked regular sized candy bars. And for Christmas, he would always play Santa at our Christmas parties. He’d get there midway through, sack, outfit, names and gifts ready to go. It was just something he did. He would even bring an elf with him. He was a part of the family. You couldn’t say no to him. Over Mule Days, if we’re getting $300/night for a room and Chuck calls because there’s a special guest who needs a comp, you just did it, because you knew he was the type of guy who’d go the extra mile for you.
Linda Arcularius: Chuck was a treasured friend to my entire family. We loved him and will miss him deeply. Chuck knew what it meant to work for a cause and not for applause. He had true humility and he genuinely loved people.
There is a saying that goes, the meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose of life is to give it away. Chuck found his gift and he gave it away unselfishly to his family, friends, community, faith and country. He will be deeply missed and his example to others will be a part of our community and our hearts always.
Tawni Thomson: Chuck was just wired differently. He truly cared about the other guy over himself.
At Chamber mixers, when I first started, he’d just jump in and start helping and I was like, “Who is this guy?” April (Leeson, who also works at the Chamber) described him best, “Chuck’s just Jesus. He knows to show up just when you need the help.”
And he truly welcomed visitors for who they are. Not just for their dollars and cents. I’ve been getting emails from visitors out of the area expressing their condolences [ever since his passing].
Jennifer Roeser: His involvement with Mule Days goes back over 30 years to the days when Mule Days volunteers were a committee under the Chamber of Commerce. Over the years he has watched and worked with pride as Mule Days has grown into the event that it is today. Chuck also is a major supporter of the California High School Rodeo State Finals which have been held in Bishop since 2005.
But here’s a funny little anecdote. When Chuck was named Best Friend of Mule Days for 2017, he insisted on riding “tall in the saddle” during the parade. This had the board and Fairgrounds staff in a mild panic: he was 82. No spring chicken. And most dignitaries his age would ride in a wagon. Not Chuck.
The issue we had was during the Grand Entry, where Chuck would have to dismount in the arena, go to the announcer’s booth to make an announcement, and then come back and get back on his mule. Problem was, the mule was tall and Chuck was not so tall, and he was worried that it might be a tad embarrassing trying to get back on the mule without help in the middle of the arena. So we arranged to have him re-mount off to the side, obscured by the 20-Mule team. Turns out we didn’t need to take the precaution. He just made a swing at it and got up on the first go.
Julie Faber: It was like Christmas was every day for Chuck. He had crystal clear vision through his bright blue eyes and he saw joy and light. He had such an appreciation for life and the people around him. It’s rare to find a true gentleman: Chuck embodied that phrase.
John Camphouse: I sang with him in the choir at the Methodist Church. Chuck was a terrific singer – and a great coach, too. While we sang, he’d have his hand below where no one could see it, lifting it higher or lower to help me modulate my voice … he also served as Master of Ceremonies for many years at the community auction, and the reason he was so good was because he knew virtually every person bidding and would always have a story. He made the event come to life.
From Joe Pollini: Chuck was always expressing humorous quips. He loved to send people to restaurants like the Bowling Alley where he would tell guests the food was great but the waitresses were ornery (while giving a wink and a nod). And when guests would come into the Chamber looking for a water spigot to fill their RV tanks, water containers, etc., he would always tease them and ask if they wanted the $5.00 water or the $10.00 water.
… Chuck had an uncanny ability to know families and their lineages within and around Bishop especially the Rovana area. So guests would come in looking for a long lost relative and Chuck would generally be able to figure out if that relative was still around and hook them up with them.
… Chuck placed a big emphasis on creating positive first impressions in anything he or the Chamber did. He was very meticulous in placing Visitor Guides in mail envelopes a certain way so when it was opened, the Visitor Guide front cover would be the first thing the recipient would see because of how it was placed in the envelope. He was very precise about making sure all envelope labels and postage stamps were straight, not crooked.
One of Chuck’s favorite sayings was “You only have one chance to make a first impression” and he lived by that motto in his appearance, behavior, and conversations with others. He projected that philosophy into Chamber operations as well.
Chuck was a very proactive person. He would see something needs to be done and just go out and do it. For example, the Chamber had a box of brochures about Kern Dunagan, a military war hero, who received the Medal of Honor. Chuck knew Kern while they were in high school and took the initiative to install a brochure dispenser in front of the monument outside the Chamber so interested vets, guests, and military personnel could bring a print brochure home with them instead of having them languish in some closet.
Chuck was a wonderful person to work with. He was reliable, affable, considerate, proactive and he worked like a mule. And he was in his 80s! I grew to admire his qualities as a person. I would often remark that Mule Days was really in honor of him because he would always work as hard as mule in anything he did. He made my life at the chamber so much easier. He is truly irreplaceable. I miss him so much. I could not be who I am without having had his presence in my life.