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Faith and family keep Carroll resident young at 100

By RENEE WEBB, Globe staff reporter
(Email Renee)

The ingredients needed for a long and happy life can be different from person to person.

For one woman who now resides in Carroll, strong faith and family have done the trick.

Rita Rupiper, who will turn 100 years old on May 22, hasn’t strayed far from her birth place through the years. She was born and raised in Templeton, graduating from high school there in 1932. Upon her marriage to Norbert Rupiper in 1934, she moved to their farm near Roselle. They moved to Carroll in 1989.

The couple had eight children and four still live in the Carroll area.

Through the years she has seen many technological changes whether it be in general or on the farm. For instance, she said they went from hand-milking cows to automatic. And this just wasn’t something witnessed, she was directly involved.

Her son Jerry Rupiper, who lives on the family farm with his wife Maureen, said his mother is also amazed at the speed in which the corn is harvested. Rita remembers having her own team of horses and hand-picking corn while pregnant.

Faith is one of the constants in her life, however.

“It means everything,” Rita said. “And the older you get, the more you appreciate it.”

Through the years she has been involved in various ministries and church organizations. For instance, she was active for years in the choir at Holy Angels Parish in Roselle, was a member of the Carroll area Serra Club, the Legion of Mary and has been a long-time member of Catholic Daughters. She joined Catholic Daughters in 1934, the same year she got married, and is still a member – 79 years.

Now living in an assisted living complex in Carroll, Jerry pointed out that every other week Father Schott or Father Fangman celebrates Mass at the facility and on opposite weeks a Eucharistic minister brings Communion.

“Every Friday mother leads prayer for all of the others. There are usually about 25 who attend,” Jerry said.

The weekly prayer she leads is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Rita noted. On a daily basis, she prays along with the rosary that is aired daily at 5:45 p.m. on the Catholic radio station in Carroll – 1380.

Her daughter, Joan Hannasch, remembers praying the rosary as a family.

“When I was little, we all knelt down and said the rosary with the radio every night,” said Joan.
“On the hard-wood floor,” quipped Jerry, to which Rita chuckled.

Praying as a family, the children noted, helped to instill the faith.

Catholic education played a role in enhancing the faith. Rita said they all attended Catholic school – Holy Angels Grade School in Roselle and then Kuemper High School in Carroll.

“Catholic school meant everything,” said Rita, who also graduated from Catholic school in Templeton. “Everything was so coordinated at that time – schools and churches.”

One of the kids, Darrell, even became a priest, a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate. He began seminary studies at St. Henry’s Seminary in Belleville, Ill., after eighth grade. Father Rupiper, who died in 2009 at the age of 71, baptized many of Rita’s grandchildren and officiated at many of the weddings.

Rita called it a joy to have a son become a priest, “but I loved every one of them.” The rest of the children got married. There are 28 grandchildren, over 50 great grandchildren and some great-great grandchildren.
Having a brother as a priest, Jerry noted, also helped to instill the faith in the family.

When asked if she believes she had a holy family, Rita responded, “Definitely. Or else!”

The faith has seen Rita through joyous times and through painful ones such as the death of her son and also her husband who died in 1997.

“It is God’s will,” she said.

Family events and gatherings still bring the best of times. And if numbers add happiness, it should be a great time this weekend when about 150 of the immediate family will gather on the family farm. One daughter who resides in California is flying home with 35 members of the family.

Rita has one living sister, a nun from Dubuque, who also plans to attend the 100th birthday party which will include 5 p.m. Mass on May 18 at Holy Angels and the family reunion. Sister Joyce Horbach is 97 years old. Rita’s brother, Bill Horbach, just died a couple of weeks ago at age 95.

Offering a few words of wisdom, Rita said, “Live the faith. That’s what we are living for.”

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