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Herbert "Mickey" Edward Rupp II, 87, passed away early Sunday morning, August 20, 2023.
Herbert "Mickey" Edward Rupp II, 87, trailblazer, entrepreneur and speed enthusiast passed away early Sunday morning, August 20, 2023.
Mickey Rupp packed several lifetimes of living into his 87 years on earth.
Born Herbert Edward Rupp II on Jan. 17, 1936, in Mansfield, the business owner, entrepreneur and sportsman died at his home in the city where he was born.
The son of Anna Belle (Cox) Rupp and Herbert Rupp, founding partner of Gorman-Rupp Pumps, Mickey Rupp packaged his business instincts, engineering skills and work ethic with a love for engines and speed to craft a life like none other.
— Rupp built and raced cars at the highest levels of the motorsports industry.
— Rupp founded and grew Rupp Industries, producing mini-bikes, snowmobiles and off-road vehicles, creating recreational vehicles sold and known around the world.
— Later in life, the sportsman took his skills to the water, launching Rupp Marine and designing fishing outriggers still being sold globally.
In an interview with the Mansfield News Journal, Rupp credited his dad, who joined J.C. Gorman to form the Gorman-Rupp Co. in Mansfield in 1933.
"Everything I've ever accomplished, I owe to my dad," Rupp said of the legendary inventor and engineer. "Boy, was he a hard-nosed German. You did it right or you didn't do it at all."
A lifetime of engineering, learning and trying new things
His career trajectory was never certain, but Rupp never stopped moving, learning and trying new things.
The Mansfield Senior graduate played college football at Miami University and also attended Ashland University and Purdue University. He spent three years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
In 1958, Rupp found himself unemployed and looking around for the next opportunity. Go-karts were becoming the rage in California and the 22-year-old Rupp saw a chance to marry his love for speed and design with a business opportunity.
He started building kart kits in his basement and then began manufacturing his designs that included innovations such as step frames, improved braking systems and eventually four-wheel independent suspensions.
Known his Dart Karts, the vehicles sold like crazy, still in production through the late 1960s. His brother-in-law - legendary Indianapolis 500 chassis designer A.J. Watson - appeared in a magazine ad for the 1959 Dart Kart, according to a story at WISHTV.com.
He founded Rupp Industries and created thousands of jobs for local citizens throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He and his team never stopped changing and innovating with all of the company's products, always looking to improve speed, performance, safety and durability.
In 2021, the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame honored Rupp with the Edgar Hetteen Memorial Award of Merit. According to the citation, Rupp built a Mansfield company with eight employees in 1959 into a firm in 1970 that had more than 400 employees and more than $30 million in sales.
"Mickey Rupp rode and tested all his own products along with his employees," the Hall of Fame said. "He was always innovating and engineering new prototypes ... His performance-driven sleds pushed the other larger snowmobile manufactures to build a more sporty, recreational type snowmobile."
He sold the company in 1973.
'The Greatest Spectacle in Motorsports'
Rupp's racing career was relatively brief, but again showed his desire to succeed.
Rupp made only five Indy Car series starts, in 1964 and 1965, but he finished in the top 10 in three of those races. He finished fifth at Milwaukee just a week after his sixth-place finish in the Indy 500 in 1965, a race dubbed "The Greatest Spectacle in Motorsports."
Rupp could have been the Indy 500 "Rookie of the Year" in 1965, racing in a car owned by fellow racer A.J. Foyt. But the rookie class that year included future Hall of Famers Mario Andretti, who finished third, and Gordon Johncock, who was fifth. Rupp beat a couple of other rookies that year who went on to have great racing careers — Al Unser and Joe Leonard.
In addition, Rupp set a standard perhaps no one else has in ground and air racing.
"He is certainly the only person to have both driven in the Indy 500 and raced his P-51 Mustang in the unlimited class at the Reno Air Races," said Jim Hackman, of Tempe, Arizona. "That record will undoubtedly never be equaled."
His commitment and responsibilities to his growing recreational vehicle empire pulled Rupp from the driver's seat.
Seven years after selling Rupp Industries, his love for fishing led him to found Rupp Marine in Stuart, Fla., a company that specialized in the production of high-quality sport fishing gear and accessories.
Just as he did with vehicles, Rupp never stopped trying to innovate his fishing products. One of the company's most notable achievements was the development of the first T-top mounted outrigger for center console fishing boats.
The innovative system allowed fishermen to deploy and retract their outriggers without standing on the boat's gunwale, making it easier and safer to fish in rough waters.
The company is still family owned and operated, though Rupp retired after more than 20 years at the helm and returned home to Mansfield.
Mickey is survived by four children, Kimberly (Greg) Engh, Scott (Jackie) Rupp, Karla Rupp, and Kelly (Ron) Karpanty; thirteen grandchildren, Michael, Sarah and Mary Rupp, Stephen Engh, Eric, Alex and Ryan Rupp, Andy, Matt, and Tommy Barkett and Max, Owen and Elise Karpanty; five great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a son, H.E. "Mike" Rupp III; grandson, Clynt Tope; brother, Carl Rupp; twin brothers, Wayne and Warren Rupp; and two sisters, Virginia Rupp Hawkins and Jeannie Rupp Chaddock.
A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, September 9, 2023, from 3:00-6:00 p.m. at Westbrook Country Club, 1098 Springmill St., Mansfield, Ohio.
Wappner Funeral Directors-Ontario is honored to serve the family.
(This story is being republished with the permission of Richland Source in Mansfield, Ohio)
Words of condolence may be expressed at www.wappner.com