By Dick Mauer
I had an email from Nick Fisher a while back asking about the identity of a Patrol Agent who retired from Niagara Falls about 30 years ago. Nick had been called by an Ontario Provincial Police friend who had inquired about this old acquaintance and could only remember that the name sounded like Chappelini. Nick wanted to know if I could help his friend out. He could have meant only one Agent that I would know of and that would be the late, great John T. Cippollini. Known variously as "Chip" and "Johnny Chip" he was a legend in Niagara Falls as he had been in EI Paso, where he started. Chip was a wet catcher who employed kind of unorthodox methods with an unorthodox discipline. Chip had a wealth of experience, was well liked, and instantly made friends wherever he went. He had one flaw, He let his mouth keep him in enough trouble throughout his career to keep him from being promoted. I don't believe it bothered him all that much, he just went on being Chip.
One time the Chief Jack Gorman called a sector meeting which coincided with the visit of some C.O. Dignitaries. Either the Chief or the dignitaries decided it would be a good idea to solicit some input from "field" agents in a question and answer session. All was going swimmingly until Chip raised his hand and posed the following, honest to God, question; "When are you going to get all the dead wood (not exactly the word used!!- editor) out of Central Office?" End of Meeting! I never saw another question and answer session, or a C.O visitor at another sector meeting. As for his popularity I guess I'd have to say he was more popular with the Agents than with management, (at least on that day).
I last worked with Chip on the Chula Vista detail in 1977 and Chip relished a return to the southern border and the opportunity to catch as many aliens in one month as he had caught in several years. They came in ones and twos up north in those days and Chip was pretty enthused with the hundreds of wets he encountered in those canyons east of San Ysidro in 1977. He retired shortly after we returned from detail. Chip wrote a recuerdo several years ago that documented a raft trip down the Rio Grande with 3 other Patrol Inspectors in his EI Paso days. It was a joy to read.
Chip died about 15 years ago and his wake was a celebration when his Pennsytvania relatives joined Border Patrol Agents in memorializing his life and career. RIP Chip.