Ruth Kolpin-Rubison was 39 years old and already an accomplished entrepreneur in the radio and television business in Kansas when she and her late husband, George Kolpin, brought their two sons to Carthage in 1962.
Kolpin-Rubison, a business and community leader with a generous heart, died on Saturday, April 27, 2019, at age 96 at St. Luke’s Nursing Center in Carthage.
A prayer service will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in the chapel of Thornhill-Dillon Mortuary with visitation following until 8 p.m., according to her obituary.
Mass of Christian Burial is 10 a.m. Thursday, May 2, 2019 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Webb City with Father J. Friedel officiating. Private entombment will follow at Park Cemetery in Carthage.
She leaves a legacy of service and giving that few can match, with her name gracing buildings around the area, including the Ruth I. Kolpin-Rubison Early Childhood Center in Carthage, completed in 2016, the Ruth I. Kolpin Television Studios in Webster Hall at Missouri Southern State University, and the George and Ruth Kolpin KDMO 1490 Press Box at David Haffner Stadium at Carthage High School, to name a few.
“Ruth was one of a kind, she built, along with Ron Petersen Sr., a tremendous business,” said Missouri Southern President Dr. Alan Marble on Monday. “But beyond their business success, she found a way to be significant in our community and we owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude for the many, many contributions she made to Missouri Southern over the years.”
Jasper County Eastern District Commissioner Tom Flanigan, a life-long Carthage resident, former Carthage City Council Member and State Representative from Carthage, said Carthage is definitely a better place because Kolpin-Rubison decided to live here.
“Ruth has had an impact that few women and few people have had on the community,” Flanigan said. “She was energetic, a go-getter, a planner, and she was a good businesswoman. When they had the dedication of the Peace Star here in Carthage in 1964, she gathered together four governors from the four surrounding states to come and sign a proclamation declaring that this Peace Star was a beacon and a guiding light to the surrounding area. That’s a big deal.”
Kolpin-Rubison’s obituary says, “She loved Carthage the very minute she saw it,” and it showed in her generosity to the community.
Kolpin-Rubison spoke about her love for Carthage when she accepted induction into the Hall of Carthage Heroes in November 2015.
“A lot of people do not know that I prayed to come to Carthage,” Kolpin-Rubison told the gathering at the Fair Acres Family Y that day. “John Daly showed us the radio house, and at that time, a local gentleman had an option to buy it. George was still in New York and I was in Dodge City and (John) called, and Ron and I arrived here at 2 o’clock in the morning. I was driving a bright tangerine T-bird, that’s how I introduced myself to Carthage. When I found out, I began to pray, and I hardly had time when John Daly called and said he would sell us the radio station because the other buyer couldn’t come up with the money. Ron and I were so happy.”
That radio station was KDMO AM-1490, which broadcast from the “Radio House” on the hill overlooking Carter Park on East Chestnut Street in Carthage.
Kolpin-Rubison’s son, Ron Petersen Sr., said the Radio House, which was the old John Carter Mansion before it housed KDMO, was built by the man who gave the land in Carthage that became Carter Park, and later, the Battle of Carthage State Historic Site.
At that time, Ruth was already a 13-year veteran of the radio and infant television industry, having worked at radio stations in western Kansas. She also helped start a television station in Dodge City, Kansas in 1957 before fortune brought her to Carthage.
The Peace Star
As the plaque in the Hall of Carthage Heroes at the Fair Acres Y says, “Perhaps the most visible sign of her community spirit is the Peace Star atop the Jasper County Courthouse.”
Her obituary says she helped refurbish the star in 1964, when it was dedicated in a ceremony attended by the governors of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
In 2010, she would donate to have the star rebuilt once again and converted to more reliable and efficient LED lighting.
Former Jasper County Commissioner talked about Kolpin-Rubison’s contribution to the star at the rededication in 2010.
“She’s actually put thousands of dollars into keeping this star going over the years,” Honey said. “I know every time we had Max Myers climb up there to fix this star, I’d call Ruth and say, ‘Ruth, I need another thousand dollars to get Max to climb up and fix this old star, the neon lights just wouldn’t keep going. She’d say okay and send me another thousand dollars, so I don’t know how many thousands of dollars she’s sent to the county.
“In 2008, she said to me, you know I bet they’ve got some new technology now to light that star, and they did. She said I would give some money to come up with a new way to light the star, so we contacted Sign Designs, John Hipple, and John came up with this idea and he had Darieus and I over to look at it. Ruth sent me another $10,000 and it took all of that and more for the crane.”
Kolpin-Rubison was deferential when she spoke at the 2010 rededication.
“I think the honor belongs to Jim Honey and all the committee that works for the preservation of this courthouse,” she said. “I’m so pleased with that LED lighting. It’s wonderful and the committee for the courthouse refurbishment has worked and worked and worked so hard. I know Sue Vandegriff has worked so hard and I’m really pleased with the lights.”
On March 10, 2008, Missouri Southern State University thanked Kolpin-Rubison for her six-figure donation that helped the university’s television station meet a crucial federal deadline to go from an analog to digital television signal.
The television station, located in a building named for another Carthage legend, Richard M. Webster, was named the Ruth I. Kolpin Television Station.
“It’s wonderful of them to do that,” Kolpin said at the ceremony. “I just really appreciate it. Missouri Southern State University is a wonderful school and I really appreciate having it in this area.
“My whole life’s been broadcasting and we have an endowed scholarship at the school,” Kolpin said. “I’d just like to make things easier for others and I wanted the students to be able to learn on the best digital equipment. The foundation and the scholarship do the same thing.”
How important was the donation?
“This is the first major upgrade we’ve done in the 20 years of operations of this KGCS Channel 57,” Missouri Southern Finance Director Rob Yust told the MSSU Board of Governors in 2008. “Low-power stations such as KGCS will eventually need to be converted to digital, but we’re going to be ahead of the curve. We’ll be a trend-setter in the industry. We’re not able to do this without the generous donation from the Ruth Kolpin Foundation which we are extremely appreciative of.”
Early Childhood center
Kolpin-Rubison helped the Carthage R-9 School District give the youngest Carthage Children a state-of-the-art place to prepare for a life of learning.
A $100,000 donation prompted the district to put her name on the Ruth I. Kolpin-Rubison Early Childhood Center, located on Fairview Avenue and dedicated in 2016.
“I’ve always had a lot of feeling for children, especially handicapped children,” Kolpin-Rubison said in an interview in 2016 with The Carthage Press. “My step-son, little Richard Kolpin, was disabled, and he didn’t live very long. That was back when George (Kolpin) and I lived in New York, and I’ve always felt a soft spot for children with special needs.”
The $3 million facility provided a permanent home to several early childhood programs that had been housed in whatever space could be found for years, including the Parents as Teachers program and Title One early childhood education program.
“We sincerely appreciate Mrs. Kolpin-Rubison stepping forward to partner with us on this project and are overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from the Carthage community,” said Dr. Blaine Henningsen, Carthage School Superintendent in 2014 when the facility was named. “This facility will stand as a tribute to the generosity of Carthage citizens and their love for children.”
Stadium press box
Another donation to the local school district resulted in Kolpin-Rubison’s name and the call letters of radio station she was associated with for decades being placed permanently on the press box at the new David Haffner Stadium at Carthage High School.
In 2016, the Carthage Board of Education agreed to name media facility the Ruth Kolpin/1490 KDMO Press Box after Kolpin-Rubison and her family gave the district $165,000 for the naming rights.
Kolpin-Rubison recalled the times she sold advertising for Carthage games when she and her late husband, George Kolpin, owned KDMO radio, and she spent some time in the old press box at K.E. Baker Stadium while George Kolpin broadcast games.
“I believe in education and I believe every school deserves funding by people who can afford to do it,” Kolpin-Rubison said. “I like to give and I try to do it when I can.”