Real-life hero showed us all how to live

March 9, 2007 

There are everyday heroes among us.

Here is one who is no longer here:

Her name is Lisa Phipps. She was 48 years old.

She was short and a little pudgy around the middle.

She was the kind of woman who put to shame those who hold fast to excuses.

She wasn't rich. She lived in a small, nondescript Bay Tree condo in the Little River area. But she volunteered and donated her money and time, probably more than she had to give.

She was driving by last summer as a sickly 71-year-old man was hobbling down the road.

She picked him up, took him home and began a crusade to save his life, or at least provide him with the running water, electricity and heating and cooling units his musty, hole-filled, tin-roofed trailer lacked.

And she gave him food for his belly and clothes to put on his back and convinced the government to stop withholding money from his meager monthly Social Security checks, all the while dodging the drug dealers in the neighborhood who wanted to take advantage of him, and her.

She wouldn't find out until much later that decades earlier he had been convicted of manslaughter for shooting a woman, or that his brother lived two miles away but provided him with almost no help.

She never looked at him as a criminal, just a fellow child of God in desperate need of help.

"That was just her," Jeanette Rentz said of Phipps, whom Rentz helped raise since Phipps was a 2-year-old. "She just wanted to give and help."

She made it her mission to help the man, Sam Jackson. She said it made her feel whole again, needed again. She was still mourning the death of a daughter who fell into a coma, suffered major brain injuries and died in 2004 after a car accident.

She was able to rally help from family and friends and strangers to help Jackson in a way Ty Pennington probably never could.

But she was sick, though she didn't tell me precisely what was ailing her. And she was growing tired and discouraged after much of that help disappeared after her crusade was detailed in this space last June.

She died sometime last Tuesday, alone in her condo. She was found by her parents two days later.

She had taken two steps out of the shower, and that's where she was called home.

But Phipps lived before the final breath escaped her lungs and her heart stopped beating. She gave until she couldn't give any more.

Not many of us die a hero.

Phipps did.

ONLINE | For past columns and to read Bailey's blog, go to MyrtleBeachOnline.com.

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