Now Bippus lives alone in a pretty, two-story white frame house on a quiet block in West Palm Beach, the wrong side of Lake Worth in the Palm Beach context. Inside, the house is a showcase for the traditional style that is its owner's professional specialty—English antiques, 18th-century landscape paintings, dainty porcelains and flowered chintz. At the foot of the staircase, however, near the door, is an umbrella stand whose contents are 20th-century Florida—a Prince racket, a Wilson softball bat and an L.L. Bean fly rod.
"My father was a surgeon and his whole life was his medicine," says Bippus. "My mother basically brought us up. She taught us to shoot and fish and play tennis and everything. I think it's very important that parents make sure their children learn sports. We live in a computer age, and we're becoming more and more insular. I've known children who sit in their rooms all day and play with a computer instead of being outdoors learning how to get along with people. That's a mistake."
When Bippus's house was built in 1940, it had a view, over grass and marsh, of the lake. Now that vista is blocked by apartment buildings, and the neighborhood is no longer as tranquil as it was once was. Three attempted break-ins have occurred while Bippus was in the house, which have led her to keep a loaded shotgun beside her bed. She's not terrified, that's not her style; she's merely cautious. "I go out to the shooting range just to keep in practice, and I have a stun gun on my bedside table," she says. "It sends out a 40,000-volt charge. If anybody ever touched me, I'd zap 'em."
Despite her independent nature, Bippus was well into her 30's before she became truly self-sufficient. After her divorce in 1976, she moved to Aspen, where she learned the decorating trade from a friend, established a business of her own and came into contact with other women who were doing the same things. "I met so many fabulous women who were running their own shops or were lawyers or dentists, and they changed the way I felt. We can do anything we set our minds to. There were about 30 ladies' softball teams in Aspen. Ours was called the Wild-flowers, and we were the absolute worst. But we brought wonderful buffet dinners and champagne to the games, and everybody came to watch us play because they couldn't wait for the champagne. And we got so good we won the league title the next year."
Bippus regards her eight years in Aspen as the happiest in an altogether happy life, even though the period ended badly. "I walked into my office one day, and my two partners said, 'We have fired you.' It's worse than a divorce when that sort of thing happens," she says. "I was the godmother of their children, and after eight years, Aspen was my life."
Bippus returned to Palm Beach in 1983 and started over, with few regrets and undiminished reserves of energetic optimism. "I've had the best life in the whole wide world," she says. "It's ridiculous to say, because God will probably strike me dead tomorrow, but there's not one year that hasn't been absolutely perfect."