In Memory of John Fripp

The Best Friends family suffered a sad loss yesterday with the passing of my friend and co-founder, John Fripp, following an extended illness. John was 82.

John’s strength, stability and unflappable demeanor naturally placed him at the center of things when times were most difficult and, in the early days of Best Friends, we went through some tough times.

John was the administrative hub of Best Friends until his retirement in 2011. He created our financial system and was our first CFO. He was also our first chairman of the board and led the administrative side of our transition from a founder-run organization to a structure that opened the door to the non-founder leadership that has enabled the organization to grow into a national powerhouse for the animals. He also created and oversaw the Best Friends canyon division, which is responsible for the physical operation of the Sanctuary.

From our founding in 1984 to the mid-1990s, Best Friends operated on the existential edge. For many of those years, it was John who juggled the books and stretched the few dollars we had to pay the mortgage and the bills that fed as many as 1,800 animals, kept the lights on, and put gas in the trucks and food on the common table. If anyone needed money to buy fencing, feed or a garden hose, we went to John in hopes that some would be available.

For many years, as part of our How to Start and Run an Animal Sanctuary workshop series, John offered insight and instruction about the legal and fiscal requirements of running an animal nonprofit.

It is safe to say that Best Friends would not be the organization that it has become if not for the work and commitment of John Fripp.

His background is also pretty fascinating. John came from a prominent British family — real Downton Abbey stuff. His grandfather was surgeon to Queen Victoria’s son, Edward VII, and his son, George V, both of whom became king of England. His father was also a famous surgeon. John has a photo of his infant father being held by Queen Victoria with his grandfather in the background.

John served in the British Army in an artillery unit and he enjoyed telling the story of how, on one occasion, as a young officer, he took a tank for an off-road tour of the Egyptian desert and got it stuck in very deep sand.

John graduated from Oxford University with a degree in history. Based on his education, his family’s position in English society and his own keen intelligence, John could have made his mark in just about any field he chose, but fortunately for Best Friends and the animals, John chose a life in service to a cause.

Like most of the founders, John helped to construct our first animal care buildings, and loved to wield a hammer and drive around in one of our old beat-up pickup trucks. And, like all founders, when the need arose and despite his central role at the Sanctuary, John led early fundraising trips to Los Angeles and San Diego. He spent many hours at a table outside of supermarkets telling people about this no-kill sanctuary in the middle of nowhere and requesting their help in the form of donations for dog and cat food, hay and vaccines. It was an odd sight indeed — a distinguished British gentleman, with a toney upper-class English accent, seated at a card table with photos of Sanctuary animals, hailing down passersby for donations.

I will miss him, Best Friends will miss him, and our movement will be the less for his passing.

Rest in peace, John.

John’s family has requested privacy at this difficult time and asks that friends and acquaintances refrain from calling or visiting.