And for his ongoing efforts to catalog and preserve small cemeteries and burial plots across Putnam County, Tippin has been honored with the 2012 Historic Preservation Award from the Washburn Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).
Tippin, a rural Roachdale resident whose Putnam County roots date back to the 1800s on both sides of his family, was honored at the outset of the 2012 DAR Good Citizen program Tuesday afternoon at the Putnam County Public Library.
While Tippin eagerly settles for satisfaction in the accomplishments of his avocation, notoriety is rare but nice, he acknowledged.
"Usually all he ever gets is poison ivy," DAR member and state historian Jinsie Bingham joked in presenting the award to Tippin in recognition of his service to the Greencastle and Putnam County community.
"I got into preserving old cemeteries," the honoree said, "partly in doing research on my own family."
That research fostered a passion in Tippin for old cemeteries, including many long ago abandoned by rural church congregations or neglected and overgrown by weeds and brush along rural Putnam County roadways.
"I did a few that I wanted to do," Tippin said. "Then I did a few more, and I did a few more ..."
One of his biggest undertakings was the old Greencastle City Cemetery on West Hanna Street, also known as Blackstock Cemetery, on the city's West Side. The first person was buried there in 1829, Tippin has noted.
"That cemetery was a first-class, three-ring circus mess before Larry went in and cleaned it up," DAR program emcee Bingham said in praising Tippin's efforts.
Before the Roachdale man went to work on it, the cemetery was overgrown with vines and brush, and many of the stones had been toppled or were broken and covered with decades of accumulated grime.
The stones have now been reset and restored and the information recorded in a permanent record. And some of that information is nothing short of amazing.
"There are four Revolutionary War veterans buried there," Tippin said, along with six veterans of the War of 1812 and about 60 Civil War soldiers.
It is also reportedly the final resting place of a Confederate soldier who died on a train while en route home from the war. He apparently had no identification, so when the train pulled into the Greencastle station, they unloaded the body.
Tippin says a marker in the Greencastle City Cemetery seems to substantiate that story. The stone reads: "Unknown solder died December on way home."
"So it's a really interesting cemetery," he understated, stressing his belief in how important it is to record and preserve such historic local memories.
"Which is why I do it," he simplified.
Tippin and his associates have cataloged more than 10,000 burials in Putnam County's pioneer cemeteries, often forgotten old burial grounds on farms or in churchyards long abandoned by congregations.
"If we don't try to restore and maintain these pioneer cemeteries, they will soon be lost to the ages and no record of these brave and hearty pioneers would remain," he says. "We too often take for granted the sacrifices and heartache these original settlers and their early descendants endured."
Tippin and his group employ a gentle cleaning method using water and a nylon brush in the restoration process, and utilizing a special mix of sand and gravel for restoration where monuments have been toppled and broken.
The most important part of the work, he insists, "is to do no harm."
Bingham noted that the DAR Historic Preservation Award "is a very public thank you to native son Larry Tippin whose work is preserving our local history."
The award was initiated four years ago, she said. As the DAR annually honored Putnam County young people as good citizens, "it occurred to DAR members that we should be recognizing some of the local people who are preserving our heritage."
Tippin is the award's fourth local recipient, following in the footsteps of authors John Baughman and Malcolm Romine and iron bridge authority Dr. Jim Cooper.