Senior Activities Center gets $1 million-plus gift

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R. Leo Shipley is a good friend to have on your side.


Just ask the folks at the Sequim Senior Activity Center, who this week learned the center is the beneficiary of a spectacular gift from Shipley, who donated an entire 51-pad mobile home park, worth well more than $1 million, to help build a brand new senior center.


Shipley said his Baywood Village will provide the Sequim Senior Center with $10,000 a month in income after expenses.


Senior Center Executive Director Michael Smith said most of that funding will be used to finance a new $10 million facility his organization plans to build at Lofgrin Road and Washington Harbor Loop.

If the center’s operational budget is squeezed, some of the Baywood Village profits could go to lend a hand, he said.


Senior Center staff will take over the management of the facility, though Shipley will stay on as manager of the water and sewer system until a new manager is trained.


Shipley said he’s ready to let go of the park. “I’m not able to take care of anything anymore,” he said.


He also had words of advice on what to do with the funding: “Think big.”


Shipley said in 1959 he started his own march to success. Armed with $1,000 saved from a summer job, he started buying land and creating profits.


In time he owned several large parcels of land in the Sequim area. In 1999, Shipley lent a hand to KCTS, the Seattle-based public television station. He gave them 80 acres adjacent to Walmart, plus another 9 acres in Happy Valley.


Shipley added that with his recent gift to the Senior Center, he’s divested himself of all of his acreage.

Smith said the mobile home community, which is designated for those 55 and older, also will serve a second purpose by fulfilling part of the center’s mission. “We want to make sure there is affordable housing for seniors,” he said.


A very good friend

The mobile home park is just Shipley’s latest gift to the Senior Center.


In 2010, Shipley donated $218,500 to purchase the first 4.5 acres of the site where the new senior center will be built. Other friends of the Senior Center later purchased another 1.3 acres, bringing the total to 5.8 acres.


In December 2012, Shipley gave the center his collection of platinum, gold and silver coins and bullion, valued at more than $170,000.


“That was a very nice Christmas present,” Smith said with a laugh.


All told, Shipley has given more than $2.2 million to the Senior Center.


“It’s amazing,” Smith said. “We’re incredibly blessed to have Mr. Shipley choose us for this honor and these gifts.”


He added that in response to Shipley’s incredible generosity, the center’s board of directors has voted to rename the Sequim Senior Activity Center “in such a way that honors and recognizes the incredible generosity of Mr. Shipley.”


Senior Center board president Ray Bentsen said he was grateful to Shipley, but added that Smith’s work also should be recognized. “He made the contacts, he made it work,” he said.


A little history

Shipley discovered Sequim by accident in 1972. “I stumbled in,” he said.


He was on his way to Alaska but decided to scout around the area to see if he found anything interesting.

He happened to spot a two-sentence classified ad in the Post-Intelligencer for a 31-pad mobile home park for sale in Sequim, but then he lost the ad. No one in Sequim knew anything about it, so he had to research old Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspapers to locate the ad again.


On Jan. 2, 1973, he bought the place. In time he added another 20 pads.


Shipley also planted a number of trees on the site, including a now-mature orchard with cherry and plum trees.


Smith said Shipley has been a member of the Senior Center for many years, and still attends exercise classes three days a week.


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