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Phillip Pipersburg: 1955-2018

Phillip Pipersburg, seen here speaking at a Visions of Hope event, was a calm influence in the probation world and for the many children he helped foster.
Courtesy Photo

The world said farewell to Phillip Pipersburg Sr. on April 11, 2018, but the nonprofit he started, Visions of Hope S.B., Inc., a faith-based, cultural-awareness organization, continues.

Phillip was born in Belize, British Honduras. He and his twin sister were the first of eight siblings. Phillip loved sharing stories with his wife and children about his childhood, especially the time he spent on his grandparents’ plantation. There, he was able to run free and pick as much fruit from the trees as he could carry. Those memories brought sheer delight, as did his recollections of working in a lumberyard and helping his uncle build boats.

In Belize, Phillip attended Wesley Elementary School, where his aunt Valerie Hardey was his teacher. She demanded that he read Webster’s Dictionary and spell at top speed. After his family survived a hurricane that swept through the Central American country in 1968, they migrated to Santa Barbara, joining family members already there.

Throughout his childhood, Phillip enjoyed running, swimming, and playing soccer. At the age of 14, Phillip won his first track-and-field event at Santa Barbara Junior High. As a Santa Barbara High senior in 1973, he set records in the 100-yard dash at the Easter Relays and the Channel League Finals. He recorded the fastest time (9.5 seconds) among high school sprinters in Southern California. Phillip went on to compete at Santa Barbara City College and Long Beach State University, where he majored in anatomy and kinesiology.

When the Olympic Games came to Los Angeles in 1984, Phillip ​— ​called “Belize’s Fastest Export” ​— ​qualified to run for his native country. He raced in the opening round of the 400 meters at the L.A. Coliseum, fulfilling his dream of competing with the world’s best athletes.

Phillip married his high school sweetheart, Lilli Rance. They had four beautiful children, Regina, Melissa, Phillip Jr., and Candice Pipersburg-Johnson. Phillip had two grandchildren, Joshua Taylor Pipersburg and Cheyenne Lovingood, and one great-granddaughter, Noelle Pipersburg, who was born two months after Phillip passed.

The family expanded with foster children from when Phillip and Lillian worked in the County Probation Department. Phillip would find a child’s interests, whether a good artist, a good athlete, or brilliant at math, and exercise that ability with the child. He would be like a cheerleader and had the gift of being able to raise their spirits when the children needed it. He also recognized when a sport like swimming or running could help a child, as well as a proper diet for the body and the mind, or tutors for help with schoolwork. The children came to see different aspects of their lives and how to make their lives different. It helped that the Pipersburgs have a large group of personal connections and could often tap into a relative for help.

Phillip was a track-and-field coach at San Marcos High School and Santa Barbara City College. He spent 23 years as a peace officer at the Probation Department, where he was respected and often recognized for his calm approach to solving conflicts. After retiring, Phillip served as an Elder at South Coast Church in Goleta and became an Ordained Elder through the Church of God in Christ.

In 2010, Phillip established Visions of Hope S.B., Inc., which promotes programs that glorify God and brings the community together in unified worship.

On Sunday, January 27, 3:30 p.m., the public is invited to remember Phillip Pipersburg at the live gospel music worship service that kicks off Santa Barbara’s 9th Annual Black History Month. It brings a powerful message to bring the community together, help renew a relationship with and strengthen our faith in God, and reinstate the Vision of Hope that Phillip worked toward. The accomplishments and contributions of many African-Americans will be recognized under Black History Month’s theme of “Black Migrations.” The celebration takes place at the beautiful Marjorie Luke Theatre at Santa Barbara Junior High School, 721 East Cota Street. The event is supported in part by the Marjorie Luke’s Dreier Family Rent Subsidy Fund. For more information, please contact Candice Pipersburg-Johnson at visionsofhope@cox.net.

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