Montague Museum historian Jack Lipka will be honored this coming Friday, Jan. 27 on the occasion of his 90th birthday. The public is welcome to celebrate Lipka, whose association with the museum dates back to its founding. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wendell Lipka, and his aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Lipka, helped found the museum in 1964, and Jack often was tasked with various odd jobs there in the early years.
The open house-style celebration will last from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the White Lake Senior Center, located on Ferry St. in Montague.
“I’ve always been interested in Montague history,” Lipka said. “My dad always had a lot of history stuff that he gathered. I remember looking at them as a kid and asking questions. Working with different folks in the museum has been really good.”
The Lipka family has been part of Montague for generations. His great-grandfather came to Montague as part of the logging boom and the family has been here ever since. There are still old pictures of the Lipkas of that time in Montague.
Wendell Lipka started an insurance agency in town, which lives on to this day as Rant Insurance in Montague. In the early days of the agency, its office was where the Dog ‘n Suds food truck now resides downtown. Jack’s cousin Glen owned the Lipka drugstore, now Lipka Old Fashioned Soda Fountain and Restaurant, and was a pharmacist there. The family also owned a riding stable in Montague. Jack himself worked for the city.
“He is just an icon here,” museum president Denise Marquardt said. “I have him on speed dial for when anyone wants to know anything about the museum.”
Jack cracked that he “wasn’t in favor” of a public birthday celebration, saying the original plan was for daughter Denise Briggs and his grandchildren to join him for a private celebration. However, Marquardt said Jack is a “social butterfly” and will enjoy the event.
Lipka continues his love of Montague history even today.
“I just like to help,” Lipka said of the museum. “I run across stuff in the museum and i know the families in town. If I can copy off some of their history and get it to them, that always gives me two to three pages of things about the history of their family in town and growing up.”
Marquardt said the museum walks Lipka still leads in the summers will hopefully have an added dimension this year. The museum hopes to blow up some old photos of the Montague area to be taken on walks so that visitors can see how they compare to what the same part of the area looks like today.
“When people do the walks they’d point out and say, this is where that was,” Marquardt said. “Now we’re going to have blow-ups of the photos. We want to do that this year.”
Lipka keeps busy even at 90. He teaches a weekly woodworking class at the White Lake Senior Center — Marquardt said several of Lipka’s carvings are on display at the museum — and can sometimes be seen riding about town on his electric tricycle.
Lipka has worked with many notable Montague citizens over the years during his time at the museum. He recalled spending a good deal of time with Jack Bursey, who lived in Montague in his later years. Bursey, who was born in Newfoundland, was on Commander Richard E. Byrd’s team when he took expeditions to Antarctica in 1927 and 1939. After marrying Ada DeGraff of Michigan, Bursey and the family later relocated to Montague. Bursey was on staff at the museum for years, doing various maintenance and repair work, before passing away in 1980.
“I got to talk with him quite a bit about their trip down south with Admiral Byrd,” Lipka said. “You meet a lot of interesting people that way.”