John D. Raup and Barbara I. Raup
John and Barbara Raup were married for 47 years. They died within three days of each other.
John Daniel Raup was born March 7, 1943, the youngest son of William and Eileen Raup. John and his older brothers, Bill and Tom, were the fourth successive generations of Raups to call Jersey Shore home.
John’s great-grandfather, Isaac, owned a coal gasification plant and a plumbing business in town. He also had part interest in an ice plant, which delivered ice blocks to you in the days before refrigeration; and in the Pennsylvania canal, which then ran along the Susquehanna River. When Isaac died in 1918, his two eldest sons returned from Shamokin Dam to contest his will.
The ensuing struggle left John’s grandfather, Charles, in poor physical and mental health. Charles ended up losing control of the gas plant and the plumbing business, which had been his full time job to that point. He even had to fight to keep the family home on the corner of Eden and Wylie streets. Charles eventually found work as a conductor with the NY Central Railroad, but died an early and untimely death in 1928, at the age of 42.
His death forced John’s father, William, to make a tough choice. He was a high school senior and had been offered a chance to play quarterback at Penn State. But, as Charles’ eldest son, and now the man of the family, he instead enrolled in electrical courses and went straight to work for the NY Central Railroad, where he would stay until his retirement in 1968. As electrical foreman, William traveled the Cherry Tree Branch through central Pa. and southcentral N. Y. – working with his crew to keep the trains running on time.
John’s mother, Eileen, was first generation Irish Catholic. Her parents, Timothy and Johanna Kirby, left their home in Tralee with Eileen’s two older brothers in tow to search for a better life. They settled in nearby Williamsport in 1910. Eileen was born nine months later. Eileen’s younger brother, Daniel, would soon follow, growing up to eventually become mayor of Williamsport. Timothy found work with the NY Central Railroad, where he and Charles Raup met. William and Eileen married in 1933, and started a family of their own on the corner of Eden and Wylie streets.
John and his brothers grew up living a small town life in 1950’s America: long walks to school and back; uncles, aunts and cousins just blocks away; neighbors, co-workers, friends who were welcomed in as family; serving as altar boys, in the choir and other regular requirements of the Catholic church; tuna casserole, dumplings, apple crisp and other home cooked delights most nights; trips up to Pine Creek with their Dad to the hunting camp on Slate Run, and, later, their own cabin overlooking Pine Creek.
It proved a most solid foundation. In high school, John excelled at basketball, and was elected class president. He won a Navy R.O.T.C. scholarship, which enabled him to follow his older brothers to Columbia University, where he graduated in 1965. It is also where he met his future wife, Barbara Irene Greiss, who attended Barnard, Columbia’s sister school.
Barbara was born on April 27, 1943, and had grown up in South Philadelphia. She had an easy laugh and a sharp intellect. It wasn’t just John – her caring, patient and easy going way drew people to her. She liked to laugh and was generous with her good humor. John and Barbara got married in New York City in 1965, after graduation, and before John’s Navy service.
John served from 1965 until 1970. His ship was positioned off of the coast of Vietnam. John always had a good way with people, and he was tapped in January 1969, for shore duty to assist the military’s civic action campaign, which provided assistance to villages sympathetic to United States. He helped residents in and around Qui-Nhon on the southeastern coast of Vietnam dig wells, find medical care, and get access to medical supplies.
John lived with eight other naval advisors in a building large enough to also house four orphaned Vietnamese siblings: three boys, Pham Ngoc Son, 13, Hong, 11, and Thu, 7; and their sister, Pham Thi Lien, 9. John quickly bonded with them. He brought structure to their lives, making them go to school, giving them chores, forcing them to take their shots. He took time to make sure they knew how much he cared. By June of that year, John, age 26, decided he wanted to adopt all four kids and bring them back to the United States. He had been writing to Barbara about them and she agreed.
Unfortunately, South Vietnam had restricted American adoptions. John also started hearing rumors the Navy would soon reduce their presence in Qui-Nhon. Preparing for the worst, John enrolled his four kids in S.O.S. Kinderdorf, a respected program for orphans located near Saigon. When his transfer came in August, John arranged to go to Saigon to be with them.
John’s tour of duty ended in January 1970. He was forced to say goodbye to his kids with a promise to write. Letters came regularly until 1976, when Vietnam expelled S.O.S. Kinderdorf from the country. Communications were difficult after that. John attempted without success to reach his kids first through the Red Cross and then through the State Department once relations with Vietnam thawed in 1990. But it wasn’t until a chance encounter in 2005 that John and Barbara were reunited with their kids. John had some tailoring done at Saigon Tailors in Williamsburg, Va., which was run by sisters with family ties in Saigon. They made inquiries and quickly found Son.
Thirty-five years after John left Vietnam, he finally reconnected with his kids. He learned that Son and his siblings had managed to stay together as a family. It wasn’t easy. Each of them has their own remarkable story. It is fortunate, though, that there was time enough since 2005 for visits, letters, calls – enough for John to show Son, Hong, Thu and Lien just how much he loved them.
Vietnam changed John’s life in another way. During his time on shore, he was exposed to Agent Orange. The symptoms began soon after he returned, though they were subtle at first and so hard to diagnose. John ended up suffering from sleep apnea, hepatitis B, diabetes, high blood pressure and gastrointestinal problems all related to Agent Orange. Ultimately, it developed into lupus and led to liver and heart failure. It is what killed him.
When John returned from Vietnam, he and Barbara enrolled at Dickinson Law School. After graduating in 1973, both were hired as solicitors for departments in state government in Harrisburg. John worked his way up to the position of Chief Counsel for the Budget and Administrative Offices. Barbara worked as Chief Counsel for the PA Civil Service Commission.
In 1998, John was hired as solicitor for Colonial Williamsburg. He and Barbara moved to Virginia. Beyond his work, John got involved with a state commission on regional rail planning. He and Barbara became regular fans of William and Mary basketball. They were well known on local trails where they would walk their dogs – Desi, who moved with them, and a couple years later after Desi had died, their black lab Alli.
It was in Williamsburg that Barbara first began to show obvious signs of Huntington’s Disease. Huntington’s leads to loss of body and muscle control. It is simply awful. It is awful in what it does to your body. It is awful in the foreknowledge of what is to come when you are still healthy. It runs in families. Barbara’s mother died from it. When John and Barbara married, it was with full knowledge that Barbara could have it. They decided then not to have children of their own.
While Barbara stayed active, she did not try to find work in Williamsburg. As her disease progressed, John and Barbara moved from historic Williamsburg to a more manageable house outside of town. John eventually retired from Colonial Williamsburg, in part so that he could care for Barbara.
In 2006, John’s own failing health and Barbara’s deteriorating condition led them to seek help. They brought on Denise Nieves in 2008 and Kelly Howat in 2011. So it was that a cursed disease brought forth new love and joy to John and Barbara late in their lives. Denise and Kelly may have been hired as caregivers, which they did with devotion and love, but they became family.
Holidays together. Pine Creek. John taking his granddaughter Ky’leah for walks in the park. William and Mary basketball games. Lots of laughing and some occasional tears. John showed Denise and Kelly what love is supposed to be and what it is like to have a dad. He said that they taught him what it meant to have daughters. They were truly a family. And in 2012, John took steps to formally adopt them both.
That is who John was. He would give you the shirt off his back. Late in life, he recalled that both his dad and his dad’s brother, his uncle John, set a very high standard of principles and ethics that stayed with him. There were fond memories of regular sessions at uncle John’s, pulling apart the issues of the day. Uncle John imparted a strong sense of social justice and curiosity about the world beyond Jersey Shore. John also credited his parents with instilling in him and his brothers a basic sense of right and wrong, and having the courage to do what is right. This wasn’t theoretical; it was to be lived.
If the governor’s office was intent on cutting corners to achieve certain ends, John would speak his mind. He stood up to the Veteran’s Administration that, at times, seemed most concerned about denying the cause of his illness rather than helping him get the care he needed and had earned. In his last years when he and Barbara lived in the solid red Virginia suburbs, he asserted his liberal views, including across the back of his car and in his front yard.
Early in his tenure at Colonial Williamsburg, John worked with a colleague to propose to their board a modest improvement in employee benefits. It was summarily dismissed and John was made to know never to do that again. He could not understand how some people could spend lavishly on themselves while so willfully disregarding those who worked for them. This sort of short-sightedness upset him. It left a bad taste in his mouth.
But Pine Creek washed it and other worries away. The cabin on Pine Creek became an important place for John and Barbara. With his brothers already away at college, John had spent a lot of time working with his dad to build the cabin, which initially had an outhouse and was heated by a pot-bellied stove. William spent a lot of his retirement at the cabin, usually accompanied by the family’s dog, Muggs. Over the years, the cabin was home to multiple Raup family reunions. It is still a center of gravity for the family.
In their last years, John and Barbara spent their summers at the cabin. Barbara referred to it as home. They were well known in the Pine Creek Valley. They loved the sights and sounds and smells. Watching Denise ride a horse for the first time. Car rides at dusk looking for wildlife. Just listening to the water rushing down below. It was a special place for them. It is where their ashes, along with their beloved dogs Desi and Alli, will rest.
The first three months of 2013 were hard. In mid-January, Barbara was hospitalized for over a week. It was clear that Huntington’s had reached its final stages. In early February, Alli died. She was 15 and showing her age. Still, it came as a shock to John, particularly after Barbara’s further deterioration. Then, in late February, difficulties John had been having with his liver got worse. He went into the hospital for an operation and never recovered. He died on Saturday morning, March 23, 2013, at the age of 70.
Barbara went into hospice that same weekend and died the afternoon of Tuesday, March 26, 2013. Denise was with both of them when they died. Barbara fought bravely to the very end. She never gave in to despair and never gave up. Until her final days, she would still share her smile and laugh. Huntington’s may have taken her body, but it laid no claim to her spirit.
For most of his adult life, John carried a heavy load. But he bore it so well. His willingness to sacrifice for others, his good humor in the face of adversity and his ability to stand up for his ideals earned him love and respect from those lucky enough to have been within his orbit. He set an incredible example for his daughters and sons and nephews and their kids. He set an incredible example for all of us.
Submitted by family.