Obituaries

Eleanor Dorothy Stokes Ruprecht, 101, of Salisbury

ELEANOR DOROTHY STOKES RUPRECHT

SALISBURY — On Feb. 21, 2024, Eleanor Dorothy Stokes Ruprecht passed away at age 101 after a long and very full life. She was a strong woman, loving wife, exceptional mother, music lover, professional secretary, history lover and a lifelong seeker of knowledge. She started her life in New Jersey then moved to Vermont, where she lived on her Bridport farm for close to 50 years before moving to Shard Villa Residential Care in Salisbury.

Elly was born Dec. 6, 1922, in the house she grew up in, in Little Falls, N.J., the older daughter of Hannah Hamilton and Thomas Stokes. She was enrolled in an “Opportunity Class” in elementary school, which combined two years into one, resulting in her graduation from Montclair High School at age 16. A lifetime learner, Elly enjoyed school, but the highlight for her was taking part in school-based operettas and musicals. She was often chosen for the lead soprano role — Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, the princess in Princess Chrysanthemum, and Cinderella in Cinderella. She took part in the Glee Club in high school and all the school musicals, including The Mikado, and took advantage of numerous school trips into NYC for the Saturday afternoon matinee at the Metropolitan Opera.

She followed in her father’s footsteps (an organist and choir director) playing the organ for the church services at St Agnes Church in Little Falls every other Sunday. The organ had two keyboards and foot pedals, which her father taught her to play. As the years went by, she enjoyed attending musicals and performances at local theaters and art centers, sang in the community chorus and loved playing her Steinway. She’d play her favorite hymns around the holidays, especially Easter and Christmas, and would play into the evening as those in the house were falling asleep.

Following high school, Elly enrolled in the two-year program at Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School in NYC, and often recited to us the route of her almost two-hour commute. She took the 7:15 a.m. train from Little Falls to Jersey City, crossed the Hudson river on a ferry (standing outside on the upper deck to observe the river traffic), then walked three city blocks to the subway, traveled uptown on the Lexington Ave. subway to Times Square, took the shuttle subway to Grand Central and then walked one more block to the Katherine Gibbs school by 9 a.m. — wearing her hat and gloves, which were part of the required dress code.

Upon graduation, her first job was as the secretary to the Director of Central Research Laboratories at General Foods Corporation in Hoboken, N.J. She learned a great deal about nutrition in this position, especially “you are what you eat!”, which she carried with her (and shared with anyone who would listen) for the rest of her life. At the end of World War II, she remembers all the employees running up to the roof of the General Foods building, which was along the Hudson River, to wave and cheer to the returning troop ships as they slowly made their way up the Hudson. They were escorted by police boats, fire boats sending up plumes of water, tugboats honking their horns, little private boats scooting in and around the other boats with the returning soldiers all hanging over the sides of the big ships, waving, laughing and calling to the crowds on the rooftops along the river. Everyone was overjoyed that the war was over, and the men were returning home.

She married her high school sweetheart, Carl H. W. Ruprecht Jr., in 1944 during the war and after living briefly with his parents in Montclair, N.J., they built their own home in North Caldwell, N.J. It was a small “farm” on five acres, in the middle of suburbia, growing to include a milking cow, a horse, two sheep, two geese, two pigs, chickens and a goat.

They raised their four children here, Amy (Tom) Rugg of Winooski, Carl (Susan) Ruprecht of East Berkshire, Wendy Ordway of Hinesburg and Jody (Davis) Brakeley of Salisbury. Her family eventually grew to include eleven grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren (so far). While raising her children, Elly held part-time jobs as Clerk to the Magistrate Court, attending court once a month; secretary for the Board of Health in North Caldwell; and as the Registrar for the town — the keeper of all birth, death and marriage records within the town. She worked closely with all the police officers, so Carl was very careful not to get a speeding ticket, as it went directly to her desk.

There was drastic change in 1969, when Carl and Elly packed up everything and moved the family to Bridport, Vt., to a 100-acre farm and a 200-year-old house that needed “renovations.” It had no running water (there was a hand pump in the kitchen connected to a cistern), no heat other than two kerosene heaters, and no indoor plumbing (there was a three-holer outhouse in the woodshed). It did have electricity and a 10-party phone line. Elly’s New Jersey family couldn’t believe she let Carl talk her into this.

Being a family of “do-ers,” Carl and Elly moved themselves to Vermont, buying a tractor trailer, and with the help of the children, moved all the household belongings and eventually all the animals to Vermont over several trips from New Jersey to Vermont. In the early 70s, they decided to put the farm to good use and after barn modifications, purchased 20 Black Angus heifers. Within a few years, this number grew to over 40 head of cattle. There were new calves each spring, which Elly adored watching run around in the fields. Two horses, two milk cows, pigs, geese and chickens had a home on the farm as well. Carl then installed the needed amenities (heat, water, insulation, plumbing with indoor bathrooms, etc.) and began the truly never-ending process of renovation. Elly worked alongside Carl through all of this, though eventually returned to the world she preferred, getting a job as the secretary of the History and American Literature departments at Middlebury College. She enjoyed this position for fourteen years, keeping copies of the class syllabuses she typed up so she would know what good books she should read.

She lost her husband to cancer in 1998, but her life on the farm continued and she was in regular contact with her neighbors, Tom Woodward, Paul Connor, Jill Vickers, Joanie and Art Huestis, Art Provencher, Jonas Hastings and David Breen. To quote Jill, “they enjoyed many fine afternoons talking plants, birds, Bridport, families and politics. She was a wise woman.” She hosted regular family “work parties” over the years; she provided the meals and the children and grandchildren all pitched in to help maintain the house and barns so she could continue living there, which she did until age 93. A fall in 2016 necessitated time in rehab and then a move to an assisted living environment, Shard Villa in Salisbury, Vt., which became her home for the next seven years. She was able to have her own little garden every summer, growing vegetables that Lori and the other cooks over the years would incorporate into the meals for her and the other residents. She truly loved it there as the barns, farmland and views of the Adirondacks reminded her of her own farm.

She read the Wall Street Journal every day, The New Yorker weekly, watched PBS, CNN and MSNBC religiously (and later “NCIS” to the amusement of all), and listened to Brooks and Shields on PBS every Friday evening with her friend Pat Pope. She made the transition from a landline to cell phone at age 93 and never looked back.

Her thirst for knowledge was insatiable and she was on a first name basis with Google. So much so, that around age 99 she gleefully confessed, “Between Googling and my newspaper, I don’t have time for anything else! I barely remember to go down and eat!” At which point, another text message arrived from a friend. She giggled and clutched her phone to her chest and exclaimed, “Ha! Another message!!” She played the piano at Shard Villa regularly, playing from memory and not requiring any sheet music, with the other residents often wandering in to sit and listen. This past Christmas, at age 101, she played Christmas carols one evening for the other residents, who sang along as they waited for dinner. Director Lee Ann Goodrich and all the staff provided the most caring, gentle and loving care one could ever hope for. She genuinely touched the hearts of the staff who cared for her there and served as an inspiration to all, more than she will ever know. She is profoundly missed.

The family gives special thanks to everyone at Shard Villa, both past and present; her friends and neighbors who stayed in regular contact while she was at Shard Villa; hospice nurse Laura Dame; her physician Linn Larson; her daughter Jody, for never ending assistance and care; and most especially, Will the cat, who rarely left her side and was a constant companion next to her in bed, curling up at her feet or wherever there was room.

A memorial service is planned for springtime when the flowers are blooming, on Saturday, May 4. at 11 a.m. at St Stephen’s Church in Middlebury.

If you would like, Elly would surely be pleased if you would consider making a donation in her memory to Shard Villa to help them build a new side deck for the residents, which will overlook the space where her garden grew each summer. ◊

 

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