Former school head dies in China

Posted: Friday, April 30, 2004

Former Cook Inlet Academy principal Chuck Crapuchettes died Wednesday of a heart attack while in China. He was 68.

Services will be held at the CIA memorial gym, with the time and date to be announced later.

Crapuchettes, who had been with CIA since its inception in 1972, retired last year. He spent this year teaching at a Christian school in China, where he was born.

The son of missionary parents, Crapuchettes was raised in Kunming, a small town in southeast China, and remained in the country through World War II and the subsequent communist takeover. The family returned to the United States, settling in Yakima, Wash., when Crapuchettes was 15.

He earned a degree in general science and enjoyed astronomy.

He later joined the Air Force and first came to Alaska when he was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base outside Anchorage. He stayed in Alaska and went on to be a commercial pilot and commercial fisher in Bristol Bay for 31 years. He also was a radio announcer and a big game guide.

After an airplane accident, Crapuchettes decided to change careers. He went back to school for a year to obtain his teacher certification.

He and his family moved to Iliamna, where he taught for six years until a group of Soldotna-area parents approached him about starting a private Christian school Cook Inlet Academy on the Kenai Peninsula.

"He did everything," longtime friend Dianna Taplin told the Clarion last year. "He taught. He drove the school bus. He pushed the school bus. He dedicated his entire life to the school."

Crapuchettes went on to earn a master's degree in public school administration from the University of Alaska and received his principal certification. Under his tenure, the school grew from a fourth- through eighth-grade class of 35 kids to today's K-12 school serving more than 200 students.

Crapuchettes received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Christian Schools International in 2003 and was nominated to the Oxford Round Table conference on education, where he presented a paper last summer.

In addition to helping raise a school, Crapuchettes also raised a family on the peninsula. His oldest son, Chuck Kopp, is Kenai police chief, and his elder daughter, Amiel Severson also lives in the area with her family. Son Joel Kopp is a foreign affairs officer living abroad, and youngest daughter Sara Pozonsky lives in the Lower 48.

"I've always admired my dad and what he's done for the school, the community, as well as the state of Alaska," Pozonsky wrote in an e-mail to the Clarion last year. "He has influenced so many lifes, and my own life has been extremely blessed because of him. He has taught me more about God's grace and love than anyone else, and I only hope that I can be as fortunate to have my children love me the way I love my dad."

Despite his ties to the area, Crapuchettes decided last year to return to China. He was hired at a Christian school for the children of expatriates in Kunming, where he was born.

Taplin said last year that the community would miss him.

"This is what he wants," she said of his move to China. "We can't be selfish and keep him. He's following God's plan in life, and that's the best any of us can do.

"He has been a true leader in seeing what's really valuable in life. He has taken education to a whole new level. Education is preparation for eternity, preparation for service, not just a way to get money to get through the next 40 years," she said. "I think he's pretty much the wisest person I know."

At the time of his death, Crapuchettes was teaching Chinese history and working as a counselor doing what he loved.

"I love to teach," he said last year after his retirement from CIA. "I never want to actually retire. There has never been a day I have not loved coming to school. I can't imagine not doing what I love as I retire."

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