Remembering Canyon Lake resident, firefighter John Ruppert

John Ruppert is pictured with his wife, Kristen, and their children Keira and Jackson. Photo provided by Kristen Brummel-Ruppert.

This month marks the seventh anniversary of the passing of Canyon Lake resident John Ruppert, a fire engineer and paramedic with the San Bernardino City Fire Department. 

Ruppert was electrocuted on June 9, 2016, while performing a repair on a houseboat while vacationing with his wife, Kristen, and their children, Jackson, 7, and Keira, 4. The electrocution instantly took his life. Ruppert was 36 years old.

The family was vacationing at Lake Powell when tragedy struck on that fateful day. Lake Powell was Ruppert’s favorite place to vacation. “He called it heaven on earth,” Kristen said.

Some of Ruppert’s co-workers traveled to Utah to stay with his body until it could be flown home on June 14. Once back home, a procession escorted Ruppert from Ontario International Airport to a mortuary in Sun City. Firefighters were staged along the route as a show of respect.

Photo provided by Kristen Brummel-Ruppert.

Hundreds of mourners attended a memorial service held for Ruppert on June 20 at Canyon Lake Community Church.

“This is a month filled with hard memories,” Kristen said. “This was a day I will never forget. From Ontario to Sun City, every overpass had an engine and saluting crew. I was blown away by the love and support of our fire family, yet living in a fog of shock and grief with the kids. It did confirm to me how loved he was and still is by all. It made me feel not so alone on this difficult day. I cannot believe it has been seven years. It feels like a lifetime ago, but the trauma is still so vivid it hurts.”

Ruppert’s friends remember him as “a guy with wit, charm, and a positive attitude.” Jarad Cutler, a fellow firefighter and friend who spoke at Ruppert’s funeral, recalls Ruppert as being a “perfectionist in all he did.”

Kristen and John share a dance at a friend’s wedding. Photo provided by Kristen Brummel-Ruppert.

“John’s drive and determination are what motivated him to pursue a career in firefighting and his steadfastness in God is what helped to keep this family man grounded in faith,” Cutler said. “John wasn’t large in stature, but his personality and passion for everything he did were infectious. Whenever John was around, he was smiling, laughing, and having a good time.”

Ruppert was a member of the Canyon Lake Wakeboard Club and an avid wakeboarder who “had a style of his own.” On June 26, the Wakeboard Club held its “Learn to Ride” event in Ruppert’s honor. Ruppert’s wife and children attended the event.

Kristen and John share a kiss on the lake. Photo provided by Kristen Brummel-Ruppert.

Referring to a previous “Learn to Ride Day,” Canyon Lake Lake resident Diana Garza said, “He was one of the volunteers that taught my girls how to wakeboard on the lake. He was such a great person.”

“He loved teaching the kids the sport,” Kristen said. “It brought him so much joy.” Ruppert also enjoyed dirt bike riding, snowboarding, and boating.

Three years after Ruppert’s passing, Kristen was diagnosed with cancer. “I had a nine-pound tumor removed from my abdomen and a right kidney removed,” Kristen said. Today, Kristen is cancer free but receives ongoing exams.

Five years after the loss of her husband, Kristen found love again and married a firefighter. Her horse rode her to the altar. Photo provided by Kristen Brummel-Ruppert.

Kristen found love after loss. Five years after her husband’s passing, Kristen married Rich, a firefighter who attended the fire academy with her late husband in 2001. “I have a photo of them together,” she said. 

Ruppert and Rich also worked together at the San Bernardino City Fire Department. “We share a mutual respect for John,” Kristen said.

Kristen and Rich were married at Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula. She rode her beloved horse to the altar. Nine months ago, the couple welcomed a new son, Ryder.

Kristen is pictured with her son, Jackson, daughter, Keira, current husband, Rich, and their son, Ryder. Photo provided by Kristen Brummel-Ruppert.

The Ruppert children are excelling in school and are both on the Honor Roll. “Jackson made the Health and Medical Academy at school and Keira made the dance competition team,” Kristen said.

“John was and is an exceptional human that we were so beyond blessed to call my husband and the kids’ daddy,” Kristen said. “Few in this world get to experience that kind of love, light, and happiness. We love and miss him so much every single day, forever and ever.

Kristen said that the death of her husband has taught her to choose joy every day. “Grief is a horrible roller coaster that you can never get off,” she said. “It dips, turns, climbs, and plummets. You just have to feel it, clutch onto your faith, choose happy, remember the great times, talk through and communicate your feelings, and love your people as if these were your last days. Hug them hard, because there are some longing for one more laugh, hug, smile, and day.”

Photo provided by Kristen Brummel-Ruppert.

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