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Harriet May Phillips Rupe
Harriet May Phillips Rupe

MOIESE - Harriet May Phillips Rupe passed away Sunday, June 15, 2008.

She was born Oct. 28, 1920, at the family home in Kansas City, Kan. She was one of two children born to Creata May and Harry Pierce Phillips.

Harriet graduated from Wyandotte High School in Kansas City. She then attended Sarachon Business College in Kansas City, Mo. Upon graduation, she worked for Transcontinental & Western Airlines as a secretary until she moved to Chicago with her folks when her father, Harry Pierce Phillips, was transferred to the Chicago Division of Texaco Oil Co. as manager of the asphalt sales division. Harriet went to work as a secretary at Electro-Motive Engineering in La Grange, Ill., until her high school sweetheart, Jack Harman Rupe, proposed marriage after his graduation from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., as a mechanical engineer.

Harriet and Jack were married April 24, 1942, at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather Church in Glendale, Calif. After a brief honeymoon in Southern California, they moved to Washington, D.C., where Jack accepted a position with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory as a research engineer. After spending a year there, they moved to Santa Monica, Calif., where Jack accepted a position as a research engineer at Douglas Aircraft Co. It was at this time in their lives they joined a hiking club from Douglas Aircraft and spent many weekends climbing peaks in Southern California, including Mount Baldy, Mount San Jacinto and Mount Wilson. Harriet and Jack later climbed California's Mount Whitney which at the time, before Alaska became a state, was the highest mountain in the United States.

Harriet stayed with her folks during World War II in Chicago when Jack was accepted as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. He served aboard the USS Copahee, an aircraft carrier escort, as a gunnery officer. He served more than two years aboard this ship in the South Pacific.

After the war, they returned to Santa Monica, where Jack was employed again at Douglas Aircraft Co. Harriet and Jack resumed their love of hiking in the California mountains, which led eventually to a life adventure of backpacking with their four children, Jacqui, Bret, Barb and Wade, in the High Sierra of California. In 1957, they hiked the Grand Canyon in Arizona "rim to rim and back again." Their youngest son, Wade, was only 7 years old when they undertook this trip. The Mission Mountains and the Bob Marshall Wilderness drew the family to Montana, where on one of their trips backpacking in the Bob Marshall Wilderness near Big Salmon Lake they met up with Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, U.S. Forest Service Chief Edward P. Cliff and Secretary of Agriculture Orville L. Freeman, who were there examining some of the problems of wilderness management. With local forest officers, they were riding through a portion of this great wilderness when they spotted the Rupe family backpacking and they wondered how many other families wanted to backpack into the wilderness. Thus, a Forest Service manual was produced about the Rupe Family titled, "Backpacking in the National Forest Wilderness n A Family Adventure."

Harriet belonged to the Sunland Women's Club. She and Jack were both given honorary life memberships to the Federation of PTA for their work with Girl and Boy Scouts. Harriet was a Girl Scout leader of a Senior Mountaineering Scout troop with Jack as her co-leader.

After Harriet and Jack's children were grown, she went back to work for the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, Calif., answering fan mail for stars.

In 1966, Harriet and Jack purchased 1,400 acres in the Sapphire Mountains where they spent summers with their family. This eventually led to a "tree farm," and their love for Montana increased.

In 1973, Harriet and Jack, along with two of their adult children, Bret Harman Rupe and Barb Diane (Rupe) Wehrheim and their spouses, purchased a working cattle ranch in Montana. Barb (Rupe) Wehrheim and her husband Ed were the first to move onto the farm/ranch. At this time, Bret was in Vietnam during the war as a fighter jet pilot. He and his family moved onto the farm/ranch a year later, after Bret's discharge from the Marine Corps.

In 1976, Harriet's husband, Jack Harman Rupe, retired after 27 years at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where he was a rocket scientist, and they also moved up to Moiese. The three families raised Simmental cattle.

For the first time in her life, Harriet learned how to daily milk a cow, and raise pigs and chickens, and had a large garden in which she grew food to freeze and can. Quite a different lifestyle for a "city-raised girl," but she loved it all!

She was a member of the Mo-Val Club and served as president for a one-year term.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Creata May (Terry) Phillips and Harry Pierce Phillips; and a sister, Florana (Phillips) Waldon.

Survivors include her husband, Jack: daughter, Jacqueline Tolin of Tokyo; son, Bret Harman Rupe and wife Mary Ann Rupe of Issaquah, Wash.; daughter, Barbara Diane Wehrheim and husband Edward Wehrheim of Moiese; son, Wade Bryan Rupe and wife Kelly Rupe of San Diego; grandchildren, Rebekah Serene Tolin of Santa Monica, Adam David Tolin of Los Angeles, Matthew Rupe of Round Rock, Texas, Justin Rupe of Boise, Idaho, Andrew Rupe of Boise, William Trevor Wehrheim of Anchorage, Alaska, Jason Rupe of San Diego, Jacob Rupe of Northridge, Calif., and triplets Chase, Kacey and Torie of San Diego; eight great-grandchildren, Brittany and Colton Rupe, Jesse Rupe, Isis Rupe, Brooke and Haley Wehrheim, and Jesse and Sierra Rupe.

Harriet has been cremated. The family and close friends have planned a celebration of Harriet's life for Aug. 1, on a mountain peak overlooking their tree farm above Stevensville in the Sapphire Mountains.

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