SOMERVELL COUNTY – Happy Hill Farm founder Ed Shipman – famous for his dedication to disadvantaged and at-risk children – died of congestive heart failure at his home on Monday, Aug. 22. He was 83.
Shipman, who lived at Happy Hill Farm, was buried there in a private ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 25.
A memorial was held for him on Friday, Aug. 26, at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
Shipman was the first person to be buried in the Happy Hill Farm cemetery. Happy Hill is four north of Glen Rose and just south of the Hood County line.
Shipman’s friends and colleagues said he will be dearly missed.
In particular, Rick Mauch, a freelance writer who interviewed Shipman several times and got to know him on a personal basis, remembered many wonderful things about him.
“Ed was just a wonderful person … he impressed goodness on everyone,” Mauch said. “He was the kind of person who, when you left the conversation, you always felt a little better about that day – and life in general.”
Mauch worked in public relations for a children’s home in East Texas in the early 1990s, which he said gave he and Shipman a common connection, and created an instant friendship.
“I had a tremendous appreciation for what he did,” Mauch said.
Shipman and his wife Gloria founded Happy Hill Academy in 1975. The property began as a home for troubled children who had no other place to go, but blossomed into one of the nation’s top boarding and day Christian schools.
In 2003, its title officially became North Central Texas Academy at Happy Hill Farm.
In addition to boarding facilities and staff housing, Happy Hill Farm’s 500 acres of land included a working farm plus an athletic center and gym, fine arts center, swimming pool, livestock pens and a show ring, and riding trails.
The idea for Happy Hill began in 1975, when Shipman took in two teenagers who had no other place to go.
Over the years Happy Hill transformed from being strictly a haven for troubled children to a full fledged school with a large population of non-troubled students looking to avail themselves of the accredited classes.
In addition to changing the lives of the at-risk children who found a home at Happy Hill, Shipman, a former pastor, is credited with making a major impact on many others he met.
Mauch said Shipman’s philosophy was that parents aren’t always around to raise children. When that is the case, Shipman reasoned, someone needs to step in and help.
“I never saw anybody do it better,” Mauch said.
The Shipmans had two children – sons Todd and Chuck.
Chuck Shipman, chief operating officer of Happy Hill Farm, remembers his father as a hard worker who wasn’t focused on material things.
“He was a good dad, but he was always very busy,” Chuck Shipman said. “He was so dedicated to helping other people.”
Ed Shipman was extremely active – and successful – in raising the private and corporate donations needed to keep Happy Hill financially afloat over the years, friends and family said.
Many of the donors have shared their memories of Shipman’s kind qualities and Christian influence.
Chuck Shipman said several prominent people who never even attended church told him they considered his father their personal pastor.
In 1985, Shipman was presented with the Special Congressional Recognition Award for service to children. He received the Distinguished Alumnus award from Columbia International University in 1995.
Kirby Rasco, athletic director and head coach of the boys athletics teams at NCTA, said former residents of Happy Hill all remember the Shipman legacy well.
“It’s going to continue,” Rasco said.
Rasco has nothing but kind words for Ed Shipman. He is credited with guiding the NCTA basketball program into the upper echelon of private school success the past few years,
“He was a wonderful man,” Rasco said. “He was just a good man. You could tell from when he was around kids, he loved them.”
Chuck Shipman said many former residents of Happy Hill Farm – some of whom had lived there in the early days of the boarding school – have contacted Happy Hill with great sadness after hearing of Ed Shipman’s death
“We got I don’t know how so many calls from people,” Chuck Shipman said.
Chuck Shipman said when people talk about his father, they always mention how kind he was.
Ed Shipman was born Nov. 7, 1932, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, when his father was stationed there while in the Navy. He and his wife Gloria married 62 years ago.
After seminary school, at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Shipman served as pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church near Cleburne, and of Rainbow Baptist Church.