Edward Thompson Ruppel, a former resident of Evergreen, died at his home in Twin Bridges, Mont., on June 27, 2014.
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Ruppel, a renowned geologist whose life's work focused on the mountains of Montana and Idaho, was born on Oct. 26, 1925. He graduated from Twin Bridges High School in 1943, from the University of Montana in Missoula in 1948, from the University of Wyoming in 1950, and from Yale University, where he earned his doctorate in geology, in 1958.
Ruppel retired as Montana state geologist and director of the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology in 1991 after a distinguished and prolific career. He spent 30 years with the U.S. Geological Survey and produced major geological studies in Yellowstone National Park, east-central Idaho and southwest Montana. He authored more than 50 significant geologic maps and professional publications. In addition, Ruppel wrote two popular geologic guides: "The Gold Mines of the Virginia City Mining District, Madison County, Montana," and "Along The Great Divide: The Rocks and their History Along the Continental Divide Trail between Montana and Idaho."
During his time at USGS, Ruppel served as the chief of the branch of Central Environmental Geology, based in Denver, and supervising 70 earth scientists in the 13-state central region of the Rocky Mountains and high plains.
Ruppel left USGS in 1986 to accept a position as Montana's state geologist. There, Ruppel established the Co-GeoMap Program, which has provided funds for fundamental geologic mapping in Montana for the past 20 years. Ruppel also directed significant expansion of the MBMG's groundwater programs, including the Ground Water Assessment Program that began in 1991 and continues today.
After his retirement from MBMG in 1994, Ruppel continued to conduct field research in the Snowcrest Range in southwest Montana, including mapping and resource studies of the Virginia City mining area, mapping the geology of the Continental Divide Trail and research for Princeton University on the Beaverhead meteor impact region. In 1992, Ruppel received the first Tobacco Root Geological Survey Award for excellence in field work, and in 1996 he received an honorary doctor of science from the University of Montana. In 2013, the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology at Montana Tech named Ruppel the recipient of the Uuno Sahinen Silver Medallion, a lifetime achievement award that is given to an eminent geologist each year.
Ruppel was a child of Montana, spending his early and last years in Twin Bridges. His grandfather, William Ruppel, was a Montana pioneer who came to Twin Bridges from Germany in 1882, eventually purchasing the 652-acre Wilhart Ranch. His father, Henry Ruppel, was superintendent of schools in Twin Bridges for more than 20 years.
After graduating from Twin Bridges High School, Ruppel joined the Navy and in 1945 entered the V-12 Officer Training Program. He served on the PC-802, a patrol craft in the China service area.
All of Ruppel's four brothers were naval officers, as was his eldest son, David Ruppel.
Upon returning to live in Twin Bridges in 1994, Ruppel was active in the community, serving as the Twin Bridges representative on the Madison County planning board until 2008. He was a longtime member of the Rotary and served as its president.
Ruppel was a certified professional geologist with the American Institute of Professional Geologists, a senior fellow of the Geological Society of America, a fellow with the Society of Economic and Geologists, and a member of the Tobacco Root Geological Society, Montana Geological Society, Colorado Geological Society and the Geological Society of Washington, D.C.
He was a devoted husband to his beloved wife of 58 years, Phyllis Tanner Ruppel of Twin Bridges. She survives him, as do his four children, Lisa Ruppel Benenson (Joel) of New York, David Edward Ruppel (Jill) of Colorado, Douglas Thompson Ruppel (Sandy) of Arizona and Kristin Tanner Ruppel (Jack) of Montana; and nine grandchildren, Anya Benenson, Zach Ruppel, Alexa Ruppel, Jacob Ruppel, Will Benenson, Madison Ruppel, Jessica Ruppel, Frank Ruppel and Ruby Waller.
Published in Canyon Courier from July 2 to July 8, 2014