LINCOLNTON—Our community is a poorer place without the Charlie Tiptons of the world.
Tipton, probably best known as the longtime minister of worship at Covenant Bible Church in Lincolnton, died while working in his yard on July 31, 2011. He was only 58 years old.
His widow, Jill Tipton of Lincolnton, recently spoke about this remarkable man.
Charles Stephen Tipton was born on Aug. 30, 1952, to James Francis Tipton and the late Margaret Nance Tipton. His siblings are Mark Tipton (Darlene), Mike Tipton (Jill—yep, that’s right; two Jill Tiptons!) and Susan Setzer (Keith).
Mrs. Charlie Tipton (the former Jill McAlister) married the love of her life on June 17, 1973. They would go on to have three children: Lauren Tipton Sherrill (Scott) of Pumpkin Center, Jonathan Tipton of Wilmington and Julie Tipton of Charlotte.
A graduate of what was then Gardner-Webb College in Boiling Springs, where he earned a degree in early childhood education, Charles Tipton would go on to spend eight years teaching at Union, Howard’s Creek and Norris Childers elementary schools in Lincoln County. But as Jill Tipton pointed out, her husband spent 27 happy years as the worship minister at Covenant Bible Church. This was his true calling.
He also earned quite the reputation on the local stage. A charismatic team player who could make anyone share his own big smile, Charlie was the first “Bob Cratchit” in Mr. Scrooge, a Lincoln Theatre Guild production, more than 30 years ago. In 1983, he was in The Sound of Music, playing a Nazi officer. His brother, Mark, was memorably hilarious in the walk-on part of “Franz,” the butler (“Y’all can come git your vittles!”), and young daughter Lauren was cute as a button as little Gretl von Trapp (“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night!”). And mother Margaret Tipton, gifted with a powerful soprano of operatic quality, was especially memorable as the Mother Superior (“Climb every mountain, ford every stream…”).
In 1986, Charlie dazzled in the lead rôle of “Prof. Harold Hill” in The Music Man (“My friends, you got trouble, right here in River City!”),held at the Lincoln Citizens Center and sponsored by the Lincoln Arts Council.
“I do know he enjoyed acting!” Jill recalled. “As a girl, I knew who Charlie was because of his mother and her singing at various functions for church gatherings. I attended Lincoln Avenue Baptist, and she attended First Baptist. However, the churches would have meetings together where Margaret would sing. So, I knew who Charlie was and that he could play and sing.
“But, he attended Asbury and I attended Battleground (elementary school),” she added. “We did not attend school together until high school when county and city schools came together at Lincolnton High. I remember seeing him perform at some talent show and thought he was cute and very talented.”
Also at LHS, Charlie was in classes with Jill’s sister, Jan.
“He asked her one day if she thought I would date him,” Jill recalled. “Her reply was, ‘I don’t know. She is very picky!’ He never let me forget saying that! He told me that the first time he saw me, he knew I was the one he would marry. We dated throughout high school. He went to Western Carolina, and I went to Campbell University. We married as soon as I finished college and have lived and worked in Lincolnton since.”
In 2007, Jill retired from the Lincoln County Schools, after teaching middle school for 31 years.
Charlie loved to eat at Cracker Barrel. He also enjoyed the famous Black’s Grill in Cherryville.
“Charlie never met a stranger,” she said. “His smile was infectious. His booming laugh brightened the surroundings. God gave him a wonderful gift of music. He could play by ear, sing and write beautiful songs. I do not know how many weddings and funerals he sang at during his lifetime. He was just fun to be around! What I am most grateful for was how he loved his Lord and how he loved our children and me. He was such a wonderful dad and husband. We have many memories that we rely on to bring a smile to our hearts even when we are still missing him so much. Our former preacher, Charles Brown, used to say how we are making memories as we live our life. We are blessed that those memories sustain us now.”