Thursday, April 20, 2006

John Rupp's obituary, submitted to the P-J

John Rupp
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vermont - I've had to write thousands of obituaries in my life, mostly for people I didn't know. A few times, I've had to write them for people who were acquaintances.

But I've never had to write one for a friend before.

John died very quickly - the first email indicating that he was going to go into hospice care was only April 4.

That same day, obviously thinking he had lots of time left on the earth, I received this from him:

Thanks for calling me this a.m. flash from the past and always great to hear from you. I am looking forward to the big bash this summer we can reunite on the "lake that is tied in the middle" If I can swing it I will be buying a brick to memorialize my existense and maybe a quote about not going quietly into the night, O Captain, my Captain. And god willing, we will hoist a few dark brews for those fallen and for those brave enough to face Life's Chall-anges pronounced in the style of Cousteau. Peace, love and Power to the People.

John's wife Paula told me that John (who she called JR) really appreciated all the phone calls and attempts at contact in his last days.

What follows is the obituary that I submitted to the Jamestown Post-Journal for publication. It won't look quite like this when the professional journalists get done hacking it...


John Michael Rupp
7-21-1947 to 4-18-2006

John Michael Rupp died April 18, 2006 at his home in South Burlington, Vermont.

At the time of his death, Mr. Rupp had been battling with cancer for several years. He died peacefully in the company of family and friends, wishing him well on his last journey.

Mr. Rupp was born in Bradford, Penn., July 21, 1947 but grew up in Lakewood, New York where he was raised by his parents, the late Frances Hoy Rupp and the late Emerson Joyce Rupp.

He attended local schools and graduated from Southwestern Central High School in Jamestown, N.Y. in 1966. In high school, Mr. Rupp distinguished himself working on the student newspaper, The Trojan, as a columnist, as well as winning numerous tennis matches on the school tennis team, earning his varsity letter. He also was member of the wrestling, cross country and soccer teams.

After graduation, he attended the University of Miami, where he studied psychology. He later attended the Esalen Institute and Naropa for massage training.

Mr. Rupp was an avid naturalist and worked at a number of occupations in his life, doing caretaking, security, landscaping and massage, especially with the Tyler Place, a resort in Vermont. He also enjoyed working as a volunteer interpretive guide in Kauai, his adopted home for 20 years before he moved to Vermont. He also lived in Colorado for some time. Almost all of Mr. Rupp’s homes were in mountain areas.

He was an avid runner, backpacker and enjoyed playing tennis. His most enjoyable moments were spent with his family, wife Paula, and daughter Noelani, 4.

In addition to his wife and daughter, (both of South Burlington, Vermont) he is survived by his son, Orion Penn, 31 of Seattle.

Also living in loving memory of John is his hanai son Ki’ai Barretto and hanai daughter Ka’iulani Baretto, both of Kauai, his Hawaii ohana, and numerous devoted friends around the world and across the country.

The family thanks all of the physicians and hospice staff and personnel for their gentle care.

Mr. Rupp’s ashes will be brought to Kauai for a memorial service May 13.

On July 21, Mr. Rupp’s birthday, there will be a remembrance hike up Mt. Philo in Charlotte, Vermont to honor his life.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be sent to his daughter Noelani’s college fund at 201 Brand Farm Drive, South Burlington, VT 05403.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Who we were and who we turned out to be

Jennifer Wall
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
JAMESTOWN, N.Y. - We were in 9th grade, in Mrs. Pascuillo's English clas and I remember having to give speeches at some point.

Speeches? Gulp!

I wasn't much on public speaking in junior high school and high school. In fact, I had total terror of facing a crowd. (My apologies, here to the anonymous un-fan of this blog who sent the nastygram back in March. This is a really hard thing to write about without the first personal pronoun.)

We were in the auditorium and while I think I would look at it today and think it was a tiny place, I remember it as cavernous and the stage quite high.

Two things stick out about that day.

First, whenever someone gave a speech, all of us sitting down in front were sooooo critical. Jay Piazza was especially good at slamming people. But when Jennifer Wall (now Jennifer Wall Breland) got up and gave a speech/presentation about art, Jay was speechless, a totally unnatural condition for him, I remember. After she finished, I remember him saying, "How can you slam Jennifer Wall?"

In her very soft voice, she talked about some art, showed examples for us to see, and Mrs. Pascuillo practically applauded. Jennifer had more poise than most of us, I remember that clearly.

The second memory is clear, too, but a lot more painful.

I had not prepared a speech (a familiar pattern that extended to all homework), but damn it was my day all of a sudden and there was Mrs. P. saying "Mike, you're up."

Up the creek would have been more accurate and a good predictor of the doom that awaited.

I had just read an article about telepathy, somewhere, and so I thought I could wing it. Youthful confidence bolstered by the fact that I had no choice pushed me up on the stage. You did not tell Mrs. P. you weren't ready - or that your assignment was not done.

Standing up on that stage, I boldly said, "My speech is about telepathy..." except that I completely mispronounced telepathy and said "Tele-Path-ee." And the more I went on, the more I said "Tele-Path-ee," over and over, because my mind drew a blank on any content. All I could remember was the word.

Jim Carr was near the front and desperately tried to signal me that I was toast. I mean, how much could I really know about telepathy if I couldn't even pronounce the goddamn name right.

Mrs. P.'s face went from smile to frown to total rage by the time the three minutes were up. The three minutes seemed like three years.

It took me another 20 years to learn that when you do public speaking, if you are prepared, it's no big deal. Really.

I sometimes have to speak to several hundred people at a time - which does give me pause - but I make sure I have at least twice as much material as I think I will need, three really good jokes and a new obnoxious tie to divert people's attention.

It works, but I'm stuck with a closet full of awful neckties. Perhaps I'll bring some to the reunion, but no speeches for me, thank you very much.


Marcia Carlson Hein has been busy blogging on her website (the link is to the right). You might want to check it out.