Excelsior Citizen

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Citizen Spotlight: Shirley Knipker

Last Updated on January 15, 2023 by S Jason Cole

Shirley Knipker is still loving life in Excelsior Springs (photo S Jason Cole).

At 91 years young, Shirley Knipker is still actively working to make a positive impact in the community of Excelsior Springs. A native of western Kansas, she and her husband John moved to Excelsior Springs in 1961 when they purchased the Midway Station on what used to be the outskirts of the city. John had been a mechanic in Kansas City and they were seeking more autonomy over their finances and future. Shirley said they had their ups and downs but they always persevered. After a fire destroyed part of their store, they rebuilt and kept it going. Shirley graduated in 1952 and worked as a nurse in Kansas City then when they moved to Excelsior Springs she worked at the Spa View Hospital and a few other places. Shirley was one of the very first employees of the Excelsior Springs Hospital when it opened in January 1977. “It was just down the hill, it’s like they built it there just for me,” she laughed. 

For her 90th birthday party, Shirley’s family had a big party with a circus theme (submitted photo).

Even after retirement, Shirley’s gift for nurturing and compassion has kept her going. For years she’s been the preschool Sunday School teacher at the church of the Nazarene. She’s been active with both the Good Samaritan Center and Meet the Need helping with coat drives, food drives, and much more. Shirley is also a member of the SAFE (Substance Abuse Free Environment) Committee which is administered by the Excelsior Springs Hospital. 

Shirley’s three children are a great source of pride and joy. Her oldest son, John opened John’s Super with his brother Rudy in downtown Excelsior. The brothers still operate the storage facility from the same location. Her daughter Janet moved back to Missouri recently and she works at the schools in food service. Shirley has 6 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren who she likes to see as often as she can. Shirley said she didn’t get to spend a lot of quality time with the great-grandchildren during the holidays so she started organizing her own Christmas parties with smaller groups of the kids. 

Over the past few years, she realized that it was becoming harder and harder to purchase gifts for the kids because “they already have anything they need.” So, she decided she’d start a new tradition and go with her great-grands to do good deeds. “We’ve gone to the cemetery and cleaned up headstones and the boys picked up sticks,” she said. This year she took her 7 great-grandaughters to Meet the Need where they had lunch, “I told them to bring some money because I want you to do some things for other people.” During lunch, they left tips for the servers, purchased ‘coffee for caregiver’ gift cards, and helped to ‘pay it forward.’ After lunch, they headed over to the thrift store where some of the kids slipped dollar bills into the pockets of used clothes and purchased toys for other children in the store.  

Shirley still gets excited to see the community moving forward, she’s been here to see Excelsior Spring’s highs and lows. She especially likes to see good things happening for the children. She still likes to get out and help and she said that recently she’s been going to the schools to help her daughter Janet in the lunchroom. Although she downplays her impact on the community, it’s her small acts of kindness that continue to make Excelsior Springs a better place to live. 


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