Memorials

Obituary - Thomas Charles Raup
Dec. 1, 1938 - Aug. 30, 2016

Tom Raup was remarkable.

He and his brothers, Bill and John, grew up on the corner of Eden and Wylie Streets in Jersey Shore in the 1940s and 1950s. His father was a nominal German Lutheran who worked as an electrical foreman for the NY Central Railroad; his mother was a devout Catholic and first generation Irish-American.

There was nothing privileged about their upbringing. In fact, there were some tough times. But they had plenty of what mattered. As a family, they stuck together and were able to lean on support from an extended family that included his Dad's brother, John, owner of Raup's Department Store in Jersey Shore, as well as his Mom's clan of Kirbys who had settled in Williamsport. There was a solid foundation from which the Raup boys were able to develop their abilities and become leaders, accomplished public servants and respected members of their communities.

In Tom's case, he was elected President of his senior class in high school, went to Columbia University on a Navy ROTC scholarship, was captain of a crew team at Columbia that won national honors his senior year, served as Battle Station Officer of the Deck on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga when it scrambled from Norfolk to the coast of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, graduated from Columbia Law School and was the youngest serving trial judge in the State of Pennsylvania in 1973.

As Judge, Tom successfully brought suit twice against the Lycoming County Commissioners for inadequately funding programs for troubled youth and domestic violence; became President Judge of Lycoming County in 1982; established the "bench-bar committee" to work through problems of common concern between the court and the bar association; and bridged a divide between the State Senate Judiciary Committee and the State Supreme Court to draft rules of evidence that were subsequently adopted by the Supreme Court and acclaimed across the state.

These and other professional achievements were important to Tom, but they really only reveal a small part of who he was.

Tom was a devoted husband and father. Even with his size 13s, he was out coaching soccer evenings and weekends for years. The annual trips out to Wyoming with the pop-up camper and the patience to teach a restless son to fly fish. Sitting atop the dunk tank at the West Branch School Fair. Family gatherings up Pine Creek. Weekly square dancing with his wife, Barbara. And, later, near weekly trips to Gettysburg to pursue Barb's interest in the Civil War. He even got himself dressed up in period clothing one Remembrance Day. He was a good sport about it all.

And a good friend. Annual trips to Algonquin Park with Stutchel, Yowell, Hockley and Zeluski - trolling for Lake Trout, 3 mile portages with canoes and heavy packs, stories and laughs around the campfire. Later with kids and the snipe hunt, trying and failing to stone to death a grouse one year when the fishing was thin. Also the annual hunting group at Doc Knight's - the early morning freeze, drives along the hillside, returning to the shack for stories, ribbing and camaraderie. The trips with Michael Pakenham and his circle fly fishing in the Wyoming backcountry.

He was curious about the world around him. A favorite memory was coming home for college breaks and heading straight to Uncle John's to work through the affairs of the day. John was sharp and he pushed open horizons for Tom and his brothers. He taught them to question. To make the effort needed to see more clearly. To seek a deeper understanding. These lessons stuck with him.

He tried hard to make that world a better place.

In 1981, Tom joined the "Big Brother" program with a young man named Joe as his "little brother." Their relationship blossomed with Joe first coming to live with Tom and his family as a foster child and then, after high school, formal adoption into the family. He played a similar role with his nephew, Jay, who lived with Tom and his family for a year while Jay got his high school diploma. He took the time to make a real difference.

Tom was fair-minded with a ready ability to see opposing perspectives. But also with a wisdom that told him when to take a stand and hold firm - when, even, to take a risk. Alarmed by the direction he saw the country heading after 9/11, he wrote a series of opinion pieces in the Sun-Gazette that the paper described as "provocative." During and after his time on the bench, Tom stood up straight and argued against the prevailing wind of mandatory minimum sentences. As was typical, he made his case by telling stories - painting a picture for state legislators of real people and specific cases and then asking them to recommend a sentence. Inevitably, the human response made the mechanical "three strikes" outcome look medieval. He took pride in having helped nudge state policy in a better direction.

But in taking pride, he wasn't in any way arrogant. It was more an innocent, wide-eyed marveling at how HE could have done THAT. And that's at least partly because all the way through and up until the very end he viewed himself as "just a boy from Jersey Shore." He was a remarkable person with an unusual temperament and character, but his upbringing grounded him. He never lost sight of who he was. Few things made him as happy as watching as Joe took his own "little brother" on the same canoe trip he had taken Joe on years before. It brought tears to his eyes.

These and other acts that together comprise the story of Tom's life are not well known and do not exist on a grand scale. But he touched so many people in so many different ways. Even just his well told stories and good-natured sense of humor that engaged and have stuck with so many people. He has shown us through this accumulation of his own modest acts the true source of our own strength. His story that lives on now is the one that reminds us what we are each capable of achieving in our own lives and in our own quiet ways. It is a source of hope. A beautiful gift.

Shortly after Barb died in 2010, Tom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. For several years, the decline was largely held in check by the sheer force of his will and refusal to give in. He worked up until the fall of 2014. In August 2015, he moved in with his son, Joe. He understood and appreciated that his condition had the effect of drawing Joe, Ethan and Jay closer together. In that sense, his disease at least provided one blessing. The most meaningful part of his life these last years was his daily walk with his friend, George Bossert, and his dog, Bernie. There were a lot of people like George who went out of their way to help him live as independent a life as possible for as long as possible. Tom died in Seattle on Aug. 30 after taking a bad fall on Aug. 11 on a playground with his son, Ethan, his two grandkids, Jonah and Owen, and his grand-nephew, Chris. He is survived by his son Joe, Joe's partner Diane and his granddaughter Stephanie; his son Ethan, daughter-in-law Tess and grandkids Jonah and Owen; his nephew Jay and his family; and many, many friends.

There will be a memorial and Irish wake held for Tom starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, at his old law office at 634 W. Fourth St. In lieu of flowers, the family asks you instead consider a donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lycoming County, Rider Park through the First Community Foundation Partnership, or the Pine Creek Preservation Association.

Submitted by family.