Carl A. Ruppert; Architect Aided The Developmentally Disabled

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Carl A. Ruppert, 86, an architect who specialized in the design and renovation of schools and churches and who became an advocate for the developmentally disabled, died Nov. 19 at Sibley Memorial Hospital. He had complications from heart surgery performed this month.

Mr. Ruppert had owned and operated a self-titled architectural practice since 1966, first in Washington and later from his home in Chevy Chase.

His projects included design work at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Georgetown University Hospital and Providence Hospital's nursing home.

He also did free architectural work for nonprofit organizations and was known for making accessibility for the physically disabled a hallmark of his design.

He and his wife became involved in disability causes after Down syndrome was diagnosed in their youngest child, Colleen, after her birth in 1960.

The Rupperts helped prepare Colleen in her role as a public speaker and advocate for people with developmental disabilities. They also encouraged their seven other children to become involved in similar advocacy work.

Dolores Wilson, director of Bethlehem House, a Washington home for the disabled, called Mr. Ruppert "a model for other families. Some dads don't go the whole way."

Mr. Ruppert did fundraising and advocacy work for Bethlehem House as well as the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Institute, a District-based agency serving the developmentally disabled.

About 25 years ago, Mr. Ruppert and his family started an annual holiday dance as a social event for the developmentally disabled. In recent years, the dance has been held in December at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Silver Spring.

Mr. Ruppert and his wife were recipients of a humanitarian award affiliated with the Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, an advocacy group known as SHHH.

Carl Anton Ruppert was born Feb. 9, 1921, in Washington. He was a 1939 graduate of Gonzaga College High School and a 1943 architecture graduate of Catholic University.

He served in the Navy during World War II and participated in amphibious force landings during the Normandy invasion.

His board memberships included the Kennedy Institute and the Catholic Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament's building committee. He was a member of the church and, in 1997, was inducted into the Sovereign Order of Malta, a Catholic lay religious group.

Survivors include his wife, Antoinette Switzer Ruppert, whom he married in 1948, of Chevy Chase; eight children, Caryl Ann Ersenkal of Washington, Carl Ruppert Jr. of Glenmont, N.Y., Craig Ruppert of Laytonsville, Catherine Washington of Silver Spring, Curtis Ruppert of Burkittsville, Colleen Ruppert of Chevy Chase and Christopher Ruppert and Christine Ruppert, both of Rockville; two sisters; 15 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

-- Adam Bernstein

© 2007 The Washington Post Company