By: Bill O’ Connell
The Evergreen Vikings opened the 2017 football season hosting the Otsego Knights Friday night before an overflowing and enthusiastic home crowd on their newly installed turf field.
Beside the game, a hard-fought 28-14 loss, most were there to honor the legacy of Timothy “TJ” Rupp, the former Viking Athletic Director who passed away on April 8th of this year from injuries sustained in a car accident. Once again, the Evergreen community showed their compassion, strength and resiliency in dealing with the wake of one of their own taken far too soon and the support they gave to his wife Sarah, their son Brantley and their unborn son Henry.
Speaking on behalf of the Evergreen Local School District, Principal Josh Clark thanked the community for its outpouring of love, support and encouragement after the accident. “You sent cards, donations to Sarah Rupp and her family and selflessly volunteered to simply be there when necessary,” he said. “Tragedy doesn’t define us,” continued Mr. Clark.
“Rather it exposes our character, resolve and steadfast ability to keep pressing on, even when it hurts. We move forward—not to forget TJ Rupp and his amazing example—but to honor his legacy by living as he did.”
When Mr. Clark was done, Sarah courageously took the microphone to express her thanks to everyone. She spoke of his love for his job, the school and the community and how hard he worked to make Evergreen stand out in the league and the state. In a heart-touching and inspiring moment, Sarah introduced a man by the name of “Ken” who was one of five people her husband helped save through organ donations, a decision he selflessly made when he earned his driver’s license at 16 years of age.
“My family and I would not be here today if it weren’t for you, the community he grew to cherish and the community that grew to accept and cherish him,” said Sarah. “The Evergreen community, students and staff have supported my family in ways I would never have expected.”
Following the tribute, the game was played on the new turf that TJ had championed for so long to bring to Evergreen and, of course, set a standard for other schools to follow. While he may not have been there to see his long-time goal achieved, TJ Rupp was there in spirit, in family and in name.
Located on the west side of the field, between the 25 and 30 yard lines, are the initials “TJ” in Evergreen Gold, bordered by white and surrounded by the green of the turf. The initials will be there for years to come, much like the impact he had on the lives of the students and people in the Evergreen community.
Bill can be reached at email@example.com
© 2019, Bill O’Connell. All rights reserved.