BY ANGIE JACKSON
— KINGSLEY — Christa Pipoly was known as one of Kingsley Middle School’s top athletes.
She motivated her teammates during basketball, volleyball and softball games and her father, David, 52, could be seen on the sidelines, often with a bag of goodies to share.
“He worked for (Gordon Food Service), so he always had some kind of snack,” said Heidi Musser, a parent of a teammate and friend. “He was involved in everything that she did. He was always there.”
David and Christa Pipoly, 13, died Sunday morning after their vehicle collided with a Grand Traverse County Road Commission plow truck. Michigan State Police said Pipoly’s vehicle was headed west on Sparling Road and failed to stop at the Summit City Road intersection, where it struck a plow truck traveling north.
A second passenger in the Pipoly vehicle and the driver of the plow truck were transported to Munson Medical Center. State police continue to investigate.
”We are absolutely saddened,” said Jim Cook, Grand Traverse Road Commission manager. Cook called the crash “a horrific and tragic accident.”
”My understanding is the car missed the stop sign,” Cook said. “Our truck was at the intersection at the same time.”
Cook declined to release the plow truck driver’s name.
Students at Kingsley Middle School had Monday off because of a staff development day. Between meetings school employees embraced and grieved the loss of a student who made “great connections,” said Superintendent Keith Smith.
Christa also ran track and played percussion in the band. She earned all As and was the school’s student of the month for January, Smith said.
The school canceled Monday’s basketball game with Traverse City West Middle School. Christa was a starting forward.
Teammates McKenna Musser and Haven Robinson cried and hugged near Christa’s locker Monday after they hung a poster with photos of the friends smiling, taped onto sports balloons.
The basketball team doesn’t have captains, but Christa “very well could’ve been” one, Robinson said.
”She motivated all of us,” she said.
The friends recalled a volleyball game in which Christa made 21 successful serves in a row. Christa excelled at every sport she played, yet she remained humble, they said.
She also went out of her way to pay attention to friends’ younger siblings, and always greeting them with a hug, said Lisa Robinson, Haven’s mother.
”She’d be the kid you’d see leading a fourth grader down the hallway,” said physical education teacher Greg Johnson. “She was just a mentor to everyone.”
Secretary Kay Wagner said this is the first student death in her 30 years of employment at the middle school. Teachers on Tuesday will address the loss, and local clergy and counselors will also be available in the district’s buildings. Students plan to wear yellow, Christa’s favorite color.
Staff created a board for Christa across from her locker for peers to share memories. Smith anticipates the school will give it to the family.
”The tricky part is allowing the kids the opportunity to grieve, but at the same token providing some normalcy to them,” Smith said.
Christa has an older sister in high school, he said.
Johnson said David Pipoly was “absolutely involved” in his children’s lives. He coached recreational league softball and basketball, he said.
”He definitely stood out in the community,” Johnson said.
A visitation for David and Christa Pipoly will be held Wednesday from 4-8 p.m. at the Kingsley High School gymnasium. A celebration of life will be held Thursday at 2 p.m., also at the high school gymnasium, with visitation one hour prior.