By Laurie Hindman
The recent death of renowned local artist Sue Rupp was felt deeply in the Berthoud community. Rupp, who owned and operated an art and collectibles store in Berthoud for years, died on July 4 in an all-terrain vehicle accident. Both she and her boyfriend were riding down a steep incline in the mountains on the way to a campsite, when the brakes failed. Both leapt from the ATV before it hurtled off a cliff. Although both were wearing helmets, Rupp died instantly when her head hit a rock.
The tragic news reverberated throughout Berthoud and the Front Range. Rupp, most famous for her whimsical “Hare Line” drawings, was a talented and respected artist, but also an eclectic, dynamic and vivacious woman beloved by all who met her. “We were shocked,” said longtime friend, Gina Feldman. Feldman owns Indigo Sky, a gift shop located in the same building as Rupp’s former art studio. Because the accident took place on a holiday weekend, many people were out of town and word is still slowly getting out.
Rupp was a native of Wisconsin who moved to Berthoud in 1984. Although she was living in LaPorte when she died, she lived in Berthoud for years and her children, Sara and Daniel, graduated from Berthoud High School. Rupp’s daughter currently lives in Longmont with her husband, Jared, and two children, Brooke and Jacob. Daniel Rupp resides in Fennimore, Wis.
Sharon Gingrich, manager of the Berthoud Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store, first met Rupp at the Berthoud Arts & Crafts Fair in 1984, shortly after Rupp’s arrival. “She was sitting in her booth drawing Pennsylvania Dutch Hex signs,” recalled Gingrich. “That was my background, too, and it was like an instant connection.”
When Rupp opened her first Berthoud Studio in the building where Roadhouse Bikes is currently housed, Gingrich came and worked for her. The shop outgrew the space and eventually moved to the Indigo Sky location. “We had a great time in the studio,” said Gingrich. “I loved every minute of the time we worked together … the shop, the customers, the trips to arts and craft shows. Everyday was a new adventure.” Gingrich said Rupp had a magnetic personality and made friends instantly. “Anyone who walked into the shop didn’t stay a stranger more than a couple minutes.”
Rupp’s friends said she was late for everything, forgot appointments and would frequently close her shop in the middle of the day, walk to her nearby house to watch re-runs of Andy Griffith. “We always joked that there was real time and Sue time,” said Feldman.
Gingrich said if something didn’t catch Rupp’s imagination, it was likely to go undone. “Organization was not her strong suit,” said Gingrich with a laugh. “Fifty percent of the time she drove me insane, but I never stopped loving her. In spite of all the chaos we never had a squabble or fight … not once in 24 years.”
Rupp apparently had an abundance of imagination. Her delightful drawings of rabbits in a myriad of situations were coupled with clever one-liners. “Covering Up the Grey Hare” shows two young bunnies pulling a quilt over their sleeping grandmother bunny. “Hare Decorations” is a holiday drawing of several bunnies decorating a Christmas tree. Rupp’s love of dogs inspired a “lab line” using the same wonderful drawing technique and mischievous sense of humor. “Space Lab” depicts a black lab wearing a space helmet and gazing at the stars. Another has a group of labs awaiting treats, with the saying “It is Better to Give than to Retrieve.” Indigo Sky on Mountain Avenue is the only shop that has a large selection of Rupp’s prints. Each print is signed and numbered.
Rupp was a self-taught artist who had never attended a formal art institute or college. “She had God-given talent,” said Gingrich. “Art just flowed from her.” People traveled from all over the Front Range, as well as Wyoming, to purchase her artwork. Feldman said people bought and sold her work on eBay as well. “Folks from everywhere on the continent own Sue’s pictures,” Feldman commented.
Feldman said Rupp was “indescribable.” Wiping tears from her eyes, she added, “She was talented, zany, lovable – a big kid. She loved to laugh and tell stories. Her laughter was contagious and her stories would just captivate you. I’m going to hate not seeing her bounce through my backdoor.”
Jamie Shipley, who ran the Berthoud Arts and Crafts Festival, was also friends with Rupp for over 20 years. “I haven’t been as in touch with Sue in the last two years,” said Shipley. “It made me realize how precious someone is, how quickly life can change. I wish now we had stayed in better contact. I will miss her so much.”
Rupp reportedly loved all animals and was a magnet for strays. She was passionate about horses and at her death, was working for Centennial Livestock. “She loved it,” said Gingrich. “She told me she was making a whopping $8.65 an hour, wearing Carhartts, ending each day covered with muck and having the time of her life.”
“If she was going to go so soon I guess it was not a bad way for her to go,” said Feldman. “She was at 13,000 feet, almost as close to heaven as you can get, with her boyfriend and her two dogs.” Gingrich said that Rupp would never have wanted to have a slow, lingering exit from life. “She would have wanted it to be quick and to be outdoors doing something she loved,” said Gingrich. Rupp had repeatedly told all her friends that she never wanted to be 50; she turned 50 this year.
“One thing makes it easier to lose her,” said Gingrich with a catch in her voice. “We have her wonderful pictures, we have the memories and the stories. She was so vibrant she left a little bit of her in all of us.”
Photo by Laurie Hindman
“Slick Hare” is one of the many delightful drawings by late local artist, Sue Rupp. A full line of Rupp’s work is still available at Indigo Sky gift shop on Mountain Avenue.