By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MOUNT HEALTHY - "Mister Spoons," the irrepressible spoon-clacking musician who was a staple of Cincinnati-area parades - sometimes dressed as a leprechaun, the Easter Bunny or Uncle Sam - died Monday in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Mount Healthy resident was 91.
His real name was Joe Dippong. He was a warehouse worker for the Kroger Co. before transforming himself into Mister Spoons 29 years ago.
Mr. Dippong used to enjoy watching spoon players on TV. So, after he retired, his wife, Helen, gave him a set of spoons of his own.
He taught himself to play and began showing up in parades - often dressed in loud, mismatched outfits and performing a spontaneous jig.
Crowds - especially children - loved him so much that parade organizers began sending him invitations to officially join the festivities. Mr. Dippong became as much a fixture in many Greater Cincinnati parades as marching bands and Shriners.
He appeared in the Reds Opening Day Parade, the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the UC Homecoming parade, the St. Rita's parade and most other parades in Greater Cincinnati from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s.
Mr. Dippong grew up in North College Hill. Times were so tough for his family that he never got to attend high school, said his sister Katie Morgenthal of North College Hill.
A religious man, he served as a Maryknoll missionary in New York for 10 years in his younger days. He married Helen when he was around 50.
Mr. Dippong retired from the Kroger warehouse in Woodlawn when he was 62.
His last parade appearance was several years ago, but Mr. Dippong sometimes pulled out his spoons and played at a McDonald's restaurant.
In addition to his wife, Helen, and sister Katie, survivors include another sister, Madelon Lape of College Hill; a brother, Karl Dippong of Loveland; and nieces and nephews.
A service is being planned in Florida. The family suggests Masses be celebrated in Mr. Dippong's memory.
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