Honoring a Man of Service
by Sara Krohnke
I met Jim Rupp almost three years ago when I was a volunteer bringing communion to him and his wife Marge. They were dealing with some health issues and weren’t always able to get to Mass. Jim was a great story-teller, I enjoyed listening to him reminisce about his younger years. He had a great sense of humor, even when health issues would limit his ability to do the things he loved to do like hunt, fish, or read, he still found a way to smile and laugh about it. Jim’s health was deteriorating, and he told me he had fallen a few times. Once he lost his balance and fell, landing right by Marge’s feet. Instead of grumbling and being upset, he looked up at Marge and said, “honey, you made me fall for you all over again.” One of the things he was proudest of was his 62-year marriage to Marge Gutenkauf.
I thought I had a pretty good idea of the kind of person Jim was, and after talking to his family and friends, I believe I was right on. Jim was a man of service. Service to God, his family, and his country.
Jim was very faithful to God, and made sure his children learned the importance of going to church. His daughter Debbie Rolek said, “He made sure we paid attention in church by asking us what the homily was about, if we didn’t know, he would tell us what time the next mass was.” It was very apparent after talking to Jim’s family that he led by example. His grandson Brandon Rupp said, “He never preached to me; he simply lived his faith. I think this is a greater testament of faith than any other measure.”
A very humble man, Jim cherished his family and the time they spent together. He taught his children and grandchildren about fishing, catching frogs, folding paper airplanes, and shooting rubber bands. He enjoyed sharing his passion on rock collecting, gardening, and reading. Jim never stopped learning. Even when his eyesight declined, and he was no longer able to read, he started listening to books on tape. He listened to over 1,500 tapes. His family referred to him as a walking encyclopedia. Jim was always willing to share his knowledge, and not just by telling his family how to do something, he showed them every step of the way.
Jim was most proud of Marge and his family, but coming in a close second was his truck “Betsy”. A ford, purchased in 1977, Jim got every penny worth out of it and then some. He took good care of it, and Betsy took good care of Jim. In later years when Betsy was worn down, if others would drive her and not follow Jim’s instructions, they would have trouble, but not Jim, he knew he could always count on Betsy. The family has many memories of Betsy over the 37 years, the most recent one being last Father’s Day out on the family farm. Jim, with the help of his family, was able to take Marge for a ride in his truck one last time.
Jim served in the US Army from 1944-1946 as an infantryman in the mortar section. He served in WW II where he earned a bronze star and six other medals. In 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis destroyed records causing Jim and two other veterans to not receive their earned medals. After much work and persistence these three men were able to get the recognition they deserved. In March of 2014, Jim was awarded his long-overdue bronze star and other medals for his service during WW II. I asked his family how he felt about receiving these awards, his daughter Ann Horn said, “He didn’t feel the need for public recognition, as long as he was proud of what he did, that was good enough for him.”
Jim passed away on July 6, 2014, and was buried with full military honors in a beautiful, moving ceremony at the Veterans Cemetery in Van Meter, Iowa. I can only imagine he did not care for all the attention at his funeral, nor felt that it was necessary. In his eyes, he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, he was just living his life, in a Christian way.
On April 30, 2015, his loving wife Marge joined him in eternal life.
On Memorial Day we remember Jim and all military men & women who have died. We thank them for their service and sacrifice.