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Tribute | Tom Tupper was an inspiration to everyone

Who:

Tom Tupper, 94, of Kansas City.

When and how he died:

Dec. 27 of heart-related issues.

Known for:

Tom Tupper spearheaded an art fair in Westport for local artists and created the Brookside Court project honoring Bob Arfsten, longtime owner of a neighborhood landmark, The Dime Store.

“Dad was a real community activist and a connector in many ways,” daughter Amy Tupper said. “He really inspired people to … make a difference. His quirky, engaging nature connected him to people.”

Early years:

Born in Minneapolis, he and his sister rode the streetcar for 4 cents, and his father stoked a coal furnace to keep the winter chill at bay.

Forging change:

He married Alice Frances McClure in 1954 and raised four daughters in the Rockhill neighborhood. Tom led the effort to change Rockhill Tennis Club’s membership rules that excluded blacks and Jews.

“There was a welcoming spirit about Dad,” said Amy. “Everyone was included.”

The story of the no-show Willy:

They timed their Alaskan adventure to coincide with a salmon run for their four-day guided fishing excursion. All the planning didn’t account for Willie, Tom’s barber’s manicurist’s ex-husband, who didn’t show up to be their guide, leaving the adventurers with no adventure. They wound up at the visitors center, where an employee mentioned that her father was from Kansas City. Next thing they know, they’re halibut fishing with the man, a doctor they’ve nicknamed the Sea Surgeon. Amy hooked a 150-pound halibut. Tom (in his 80s at the time) slipped and fell, and they had to get him drunk enough on martinis to finally agree to go to the emergency room so a doctor from Puerto Rico named Wanda could sew him up.

The Jack Goetze Appreciation Society:

Jack Goetze and Tom Tupper worked in the same building where Crown Center Shops now stand. Rachell Livers’ stepmother-in-law had an office there too. Along with their spouses, the six made up the Jack Goetze Appreciation Society. Every year, they celebrated Jack’s birthday better than the last. One time, they took a trip to New Orleans. Another time, they rented a chopper to deliver all of them, along with their covered casseroles, for a surprise birthday party at Jack’s house. Once they dressed like corpses and arrived by hearse for a dinner at the Savoy Grill.

“We were like Frick and Frack,” said Rachell, a friend of more than 50 years.

Tea for two:

Rachell and Tom enjoyed each other’s company. On a long road trip a few years ago out west, they sang to pass the miles.

“He liked to sing and I liked to sing and we harmonized as we drove along,” she said. “I did it to keep my mind off his driving because he was a terrible driver at the time.”

A friend to all:

When a friend bought a flying lesson in a little two-seater plane for Tom, a World War II veteran trained as a Navy pilot, Rachell watched from the ground.

“His airplane flying was better than his driving at that point,” she joked.

Jim Lynch, a retired Kansas City Chiefs player, met Tom about 30 years ago when they ushered at Visitation Church. Jim used to introduce Tom as “a friend of those who had no friends.” Although he was joking, he discovered that there was some truth to the statement.

“He was a very warm and engaging person, a very positive guy who loved life,” Jim said.

Survivors include:

Four daughters and six grandchildren.

Final thoughts:

At just 5 foot 6 inches, Tom made up for his small stature with an oversized personality. Loud and gregarious, he’d take five minutes to get to the punch line of a joke. A former barbershop quartet singer, he’d break out in song just about anywhere.

“He touched the lives of thousands of people of all ages,” Amy said. “He inspired everyone to be a better person and live life to the fullest. He was infectious that way.”

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