Cover photo for Richard E Ruppenthal's Obituary
Richard E Ruppenthal Profile Photo

Richard E Ruppenthal

July 28, 1924 — December 19, 2023


Richard E Ruppenthal


Richard (Dick) Ruppenthal of Bellaire, MI died on Tuesday, December 19, 2023 at Meadow Brook Antrim County Medical Care Facility. He was 99 years old.

            Dick was born on July 28, 1924 to Peter and Carrie (Funk) Ruppenthal of Detroit, MI. In 1938 the family moved to Bellaire where Dick started high school. It was there that he met his future wife, Marge Lessard. After high school, he moved back to Detroit where he trained and worked as a welder at the Ford Company facility in Highland Park, MI manufacturing Sherman tanks.

            In November of 1942, Dick enlisted in the United States Navy. His initial assignment was as a Cadet in the Navy flight school. In 1944 he served in the Pacific theater aboard the USS Vestal (AR-4). The Vestal, a 465-foot repair ship, had a storied career spanning both world wars. The ship had suffered significant damage during the attack on Pearl Harbor, survived multiple attacks by Japanese suicide planes, and in 1945 rode out one of the worst typhoons on record off the island of Okinawa.

            Dick and Marge were married in March of 1948. In 1951, Dick enrolled in the School of Forestry at Michigan State College in Lansing. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree and embarked on a career with the U.S. Forest Service. From 1955 onward, his job postings included the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas, and the Huron, Manistee, and Hiawatha National Forests in Michigan. Dick served as the District Ranger for the Hiawatha in Sault Ste. Marie from 1960 until his retirement in 1983. By his own estimate, he supervised, and participated in, the planting of “…hundreds of thousands” of trees during his career. When Michigan sent Forest Service personnel to fight wildfires in the western United States, he served as a crew leader. A three-day bout of non-stop coughing after one fire prompted him to, finally, give up smoking for good. A highlight of his career came in 1981 when the Hiawatha was chosen to provide the nation’s capitol Christmas tree. Dick and Marge accompanied a 52-foot-tall white spruce from Michigan to Washington, D.C., meeting dignitaries with media coverage all along the way.

            Upon retiring, the Ruppenthals returned to Bellaire, purchased a piece of property outside of town and had a home built. They enjoyed a very active life on their farm. Dick continued his love of forestry by planting thousands of trees on the property. His community involvement included membership in the Bellaire Community United Methodist Church, and the Lions club. He volunteered at the Grass River Natural Area where he also served on the board for many years. Tending a huge garden, woodworking, fishing, duck hunting, canoeing, and traveling were all part of his very active life.

            Dick was preceded in death by his wife, Marge, in January of 2018. He is survived by his daughters Sue (Bob) Holtzmann, and Mary Ruppenthal (husband) Shawn Newton. The date for a memorial service will be announced at a later time. Arrangements are being handled by the Mortensen Funeral Home: The family asks that any memorial donations be made to the Grass River Natural Area, PO Box 231, Bellaire, MI 49615, or online at in Dick’s name.

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