Charles Eugene Crapuchettes


Posted: Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Soldotna resident Charles Eugene Crapuchettes died Thursday, April 29, 2004, in Kunming, China, of a heart attack. He was 68.

A celebration of life will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 9, at Kenai Central High School in the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium.

Founding administrator of Cook Inlet Academy in Soldotna, Mr. Crapuchettes had just retired from a 30-year career as that school's administrator in June 2003 and was nearing the completion of the first year of a planned two-year stint as a teacher at Kunming International Academy when he passed away.

"I love to teach," he said in a newspaper interview upon leaving Cook Inlet Academy. "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 to do as I retire."

Mr. Crapuchettes was born April 9, 1936, to Eugene and Winifred Crapuchettes, who were serving in Kunming with China Inland Mission. He was the second of four children. Along with many other American families, the family fled China through Burma and India during World War II, but Eugene Crapuchettes later returned alone to China as a translator and liaison officer under Chinese general Chiang Kai-Shek. His family would never see him again. Two years later he was killed in a car accident and was reportedly buried in Kunming, although the family never found his grave. Suddenly a single mother of four young children, Winifred Crapuchettes returned to China with her family after the war before finally leaving for good in 1951.

Mr. Crapuchettes headed to college early, but interrupted his studies at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., to enlist in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War while he was 17. Although he hoped to become a pilot, he was trained instead as a flight medic, then as a medical laboratory technologist. After graduating at the top of his medical class, he was assigned to the hospital on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. He was honorably discharged in 1955 and finished his bachelor's degree in science at Wheaton before returning to Alaska for good.

"Until I landed, I hadn't given Alaska a second thought, contrary to a lot of guys who say they always wanted to come here," he had said in the same interview. "It never crossed my mind until I showed up."

In Anchorage he met and eventually married Barbara Purbaugh in 1962. The marriage of 21 years produced four children, who have in turn produced 16 grandchildren and one great-grandchild to date.

After trying his hand as a big game guide and pilot, Mr. Crapuchettes discovered his true gift of teaching, both as a profession and a ministry. He taught for six years at the tiny public school in New Halen on Lake Iliamna before moving to Soldotna and becoming Cook Inlet Academy's first administrator in 1972.

"We started with fourth through eighth grade," he said. "There were 35 kids the first year."

From that beginning in the basement of the former Soldotna Bible Chapel building, Cook Inlet Academy eventually expanded to include more than 200 students in preschool through 12th grade at the school's present location on Kalifornsky Beach Road, including music, sports and missions programs.

The teaching lifestyle allowed Mr. Crapuchettes to pursue a secondary career as commercial salmon fisher in Bristol Bay during the summers, which he did for more than 30 years. But he never strayed far from his missionary roots. He threw himself into the ministry of Cook Inlet Academy, believing strongly in the value of a Christian education. He helped to found Christian schools in Homer, Anchor Point and Kodiak during the 1970s and another in Palmer during the 1980s, and he eventually earned a master's degree in education from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1984.

Under Mr. Crapuchettes' guidance, Cook Inlet Academy was among the first organizations to take advantage of the opening of the former USSR by conducting cultural exchanges with students from the Russian Far East and taking school kids to Russia for cultural and spiritual outreaches.

Mr. Crapuchettes also was involved in other mission pursuits. Although never a licensed minister, he served throughout his life in various ministry roles, including youth pastor, interim pastor, Sunday school teacher and guest lecturer. He was an active member of Peninsula Bible Fellowship for 20 years.

He also was an active board member of Tanalian Bible Camp in Port Alsworth since its inception more than 30 years ago as an outreach to children from small villages and towns throughout southwestern Alaska.

"He will always be remembered as a man who loved God and who had a profound influence on nearly everyone with whom he worked and lived," his family said.

He is survived by his former wife Barbara Ruckman, who teaches at a Christian school in rural Ecuador, as well as all four of their children: Amiel Severson and her husband, Bill Severson, and their six children; Chuck Kopp and wife, Trish Kopp, and their three children; Joel Kopp, in Monterrey, Mexico, and wife, Ginger Kopp, and their three children; and Sara Pozonsky, and husband, the Hon. Judge Paul Pozonsky, of Washington County, Pa., and their four children.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Mr. Crapuchettes' name to Cook Inlet Academy, 46719 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Soldotna, AK 99669.

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