Kathi Lipcius, 69, a former Inquirer photo staffer with a passion for travel, died Tuesday, Dec. 7, of heart failure at Riddle Memorial Hospital.
The longtime Delaware County resident was born in Philadelphia and raised in Prospect Park and Media. Ms. Lipcius graduated from Nether Providence High School in 1969, and was offered a seat in the first class of women admitted to Princeton University, said Ed Hille, her husband.
But Ms. Lipcius chose to attend Duke University: Her passionate sports fandom won out over the Ivy League, and Duke had a better basketball team than Princeton. She studied anthropology, then later earned a master’s degree in film at Stanford University.
Ms. Lipcius lived in Haiti for a time, working for the United States Agency for International Development, making filmstrips, including a project on reforestation. After she moved home to Delaware County, Ms. Lipcius took a job at The Inquirer in 1986, working in the photo lab — she produced prints for reprint sales and performed other work supporting photographers and editors.
It was there she met Hille, then an Inquirer photographer and later a photo editor. She recognized him from American Photographer — the magazine had featured a story and images about coverage of the 1985 MOVE bombing, including a picture of Hille and the rest of the photographers who documented the incident.
“We passed in the hallway and she winked at me,” said Hille. The two were married in 1990, and their daughter, Alexandra, was born in 1992.
Ms. Lipcius left The Inquirer in 1989 to pursue one of her greatest passions, seeing the world.
“She loved to travel, and she loved to tell stories,” said Hille. When she was studying at Duke, Ms. Lipcius told her parents she was going to Greece for the summer, then ended up taking a ship to Turkey — “fifth class, with the goats,” she would tell people. From there, she went overland to Iran and Afghanistan, spending a month in Afghanistan in 1972.
When their romance was new and Hille was trying to impress Lipcius, he told her stories about traveling to Afghanistan to cover the war in 1982.
“She had to one-up me and say she was there 10 years earlier,” said Hille. Ms. Lipcius had traveled in 24 different countries, he estimated.
“She was a really, really smart woman, and she was a very hard worker,” said Clem Murray, a former Inquirer director of photography.
Ms. Lipcius was a gifted photographer in her own right. When Hille took a freelance assignment in Romania after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu in 1990, Lipcius went along as his translator — she was fluent in French, the language spoken by many people in high places. In her downtime, she’d walk the streets, shooting pictures, and a photo she took of four Romanian children won photography contests.
She was an avid reader, relishing Thomas Pynchon, Walker Percy, and Vladimir Nabokov, and the love of sports that guided her college choice never left her. Ms. Lipcius was devoted to all the local sports teams, and also rooted for Penn State, her daughter’s alma mater.
Ms. Lipcius grew up spending summers at a home on the Bohemia River in Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and kept that tradition up with her own family.
If you befriended Ms. Lipcius, she fed you. Her cooking prowess was legendary, said Michael Perez, a former Inquirer photographer. When Hille invited Perez home for Thanksgiving one year, he walked in to see a table groaning with food and a house smelling divine, all thanks to Ms. Lipcius.
“I said, ‘Who else is coming?’ and she said, ‘It’s just you,’” Perez said. That generosity continued. Even after Ms. Lipcius suffered a health setback this fall, her concern in conversation was not her own health, but the health of Perez’s daughter, who had broken her ankle. “She always put everyone before herself, and she had a laugh that you could never forget.”
Her greatest devotion was to Hille, and to their daughter.
“She was a very caring, wonderful mother,” said David Zucchino, a former Inquirer reporter and longtime friend who can vouch for the deliciousness of Ms. Lipcius’s lasagna. “And she and Ed were fun to watch together, they had this great, teasing relationship.”
In addition to her husband and daughter, she is survived by her sister, Sharon Lipcius.
Per Ms. Lipcius’s request, there will be no services, but memorial donations may be made to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, 6 Herndon Ave., Annapolis, Md. 21403.