Charles Kepler Obituary (1929 – 2022) – Hartford, CT

On May 31, 2022, Charles Edward Kepler (Ed), an extraordinary man, husband, father, grandfather, and uncle left this earth for a better place. He was born in Reading, PA on 09/19/1929 to Charles Collins Kepler and Mary Weber Kepler. As a young man who loved the outdoors and physical activity he became an Eagle Scout, and during his teen years worked as a camp counselor teaching swimming in the summers. He continued teaching and coaching swim teams for many decades, as both teaching and swimming were among his many passions. He attended Princeton University, following his brother and his father before him. Ed graduated in 1951 with a BS degree in aeronautical engineering plus the honors of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. He remained at Princeton until 1954 earning his second degree, an MS also in aero engineering. His 6+ years at Princeton produced a graduate whose pride, esteem, and loyalty to the university and to his class of ’51, was unlimited. In 1954 he began his career as a research scientist at UTRC, United Technologies Research Center. During his 38 years there he thrived on the cutting-edge technologies that became his work. His efforts won him at least a dozen patents, many published technical reports and papers, and other forms of recognition. He was a genuine rocket scientist and he loved his work. He met his wife-to-be at a summer clambake in 1955, an annual UTRC event held at Hammonasset Beach on the CT coastline. Ellie Macdonald who had a summer job as an engineering aide at UTRC attracted his attention as Ed attracted hers. Their wedding was held in East Haddam a year later. Their first home in East Hartford welcomed two more Keplers, Greg in 1958 and Cindy in 1964. Ed’s many skills in carpentry, building, and architecture appeared first in this house and grew in number and complexity over the next 50+ years. There’s no telling how much he saved in repair, electricity, repainting, plumbing, and additions over that time, and the results were always satisfactory to excellent. His green thumb grew food at the first house with a large rear yard – tomatoes, beans, strawberries, an apple tree, and a variety of flowers. It also provided a hill with just enough slope to teach a 4-year-old to ski, which he did, and an above ground pool to teach the beginning of swimming, both activities in which Ed excelled and transmitted to his children. The next house provided more room, and a basement which were improvements for Ed the handyman and builder. In 1963 a house was found unsought but irresistible. It was and still is called the “schoolhouse in Winhall Hollow” and it was in “move-in” condition right down to the linens and complete kitchen. It was indeed one of VT’s many early one room schoolhouses in a perfect location for skiers at the center of a triangle formed by Stratton, Bromley and Magic mountains. Our unbudgeted ski house was purchased and we’ve never regretted our very quick decision. It has stored in memories and photos almost 60 years of happy times with friends and families. Ed again used his skills as carpenter and architect, replacing ceilings, strengthening beams, and adding a bunk room and another bedroom on the upper (unfinished) level. Next, he added a separate bunkhouse that slept 4 and had its own bath and heating system, plus a screened deck that connected the bunkhouse to the schoolhouse. Greg was a welcome apprentice during these renovations. The present Kepler residence, a condo at Southfield Green in Manchester, CT, became home in 1986 partly because of the very large walkout basement (Ed’s reward), partly the 25 acres it sits on, and partly the attractiveness of the property. In the following years the friendliness of the residents added to the family’s continued ownership of 36 years. Ed contributed to Southfield in his areas of strength. In earlier years he became the second resident to become familiar with the sprinkler system and its operation. He knew the locations of all 38 sprinkler areas and the 535 sprinkler heads that were within those areas. He bought and planted a forsythia hedge at the north end of the tennis court and pruned it for the next 6 years when the landscape company took over. He kept an eye on the condition of the pool and took his turns opening and closing the pool. He will be remembered as “the life of the party”, the guy with the vigorous loud laugh. He was a rare breed, so full of energy and always living his life to the fullest. A man of many talents, in addition to the areas already listed, he loved bicycling, hiking, sailing, kayaking, birding, travelling, the challenge of a good bridge game, traditional jazz and a new activity he didn’t begin until his late 60’s – tap dancing. He had received for his 65th birthday both roller blades and tap shoes. The tap shoes won. He and Ellie joined a “mature” group of women being taught by Helyn Flanagan, the same notable Hartford teacher who taught Ellie in the 40’s. He had always had a Fred Astaire complex, and he learned to tap pretty well. He particularly liked tapping in recitals, being in costume, on stage, with an audience and often being the rooster in the henhouse. He found great joy tapping into his mid-eighties. Ed’s passion for carpentry and woodworking sharpened further following his retirement. He built a marvelous workshop and completed numerous projects around the house and in the workshop. A few examples of his accomplishments include an elegant dollhouse for his granddaughter that made news in the local newspaper, a climate-controlled wine cellar, and construction of large model airplanes. Another project that took two years to make was construction of two stunning lightweight kayaks that are truly beautiful, functional works of art made strip by strip of several different wood species. They paddled evenly and in a straight line. Last but not least was sharing and promoting bonds with the three generations, his love of the outdoors, physical activity, and travel. Whether swimming, skiing, biking, or traveling to Alaska, the Caribbean, or Cape Cod, Ed’s role as grandfather was one he cherished. He taught or improved the swimming and diving of his grandchildren as he did his own children in their childhood. His love of life, of friends, of a good joke was always recognized from afar by his vigorous (loud) laugh, his signature presence even if he wasn’t visible. He is survived by Ellie, his wife and partner of sixty-six years; his son, Greg and wife Eileen; his daughter, Cindy Wike; his four grandchildren Stephen Wike and his spouse Aaron Wood, Charlie and his wife Kate, David Evenson, Caroline; his four nieces and one nephew. Ed’s brother, George and his wife Pat, predeceased him. His was a long, vibrant life well lived and he will be dearly missed by everyone that ever had the opportunity to know him. His burial will be private and there will be no calling hours or funeral. There will be a celebration of his life on July 29th from noon to 4. Whether friend, relative or have any other connection to Ed, we would like you to join us in Manchester to celebrate his life. Please contact Ellie or one of the children, Greg Kepler or Cindy Wike, for more details and directions even if you are unable to attend. We hope you will share some memories, even if you can’t be with us physically.

Published by Hartford Courant on Jun. 12, 2022.

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