This picture of our beautiful grandmother, Alice Hill Rupertus, also known as “Sleepy” is something I treasure. I found myself gazing at it last night during a quiet moment while reading in our library.
The photo was taken in 1946: At the christening of the USS Rupertus, named for our grandfather, her husband Major General William Rupertus USMC, who passed away of a sudden heart attack in 1945, at the end of WWII.
In this photo, she was just about the break the bottle of champagne against the ship in order to christen it with good cheer and blessings right before the destroyer rolled out to sea moments later in Lowell, Massachusetts.
I’ll have to post a photo of when she broke the bottle against the ship! It must have felt great after what she had been through.
My sister still has the shattered glass in a special wooden case.
Beside her (though not pictured here) are my father (age 5) her sister Dixie, a minister, and the Commander of the ship.
I have learned from family and friends stories that she was a beautiful, smart, elegant, graceful, joyful and fun spirited woman.
In the late 1990’s, we actually had the opportunity to meet some of the ship’s crew at a USS Rupertus reunion in Virginia Beach. Though the group’s ages spanned decades, the common bond of service on the same ship connected then, no matter what rank.
How exciting it was to meet the WWII sailors who had been serving on the USS Rupertus the day it was christened! They had seen our grandmother that very day! In our conversations, they shared stories, what it was like leaving the safety of a US port for war, and how “Mrs. Rupertus’s” stunning beauty and grace during the bitter-sweet christening, gave them some peace.
A life altering path was ahead for many of them that day.
Sleepy is an inspiration to me.
The sudden loss of her husband and stark reality of raising their 5 year old son, as a single female in her early 30’s (especially in 1945), must have been devastating.
In those sparkling blue Irish eyes I see sadness of course, but also see a strong, kind person and resilient spirit. A spirit she must have called on, over and over to move forward in the years ahead.
Ah. The stories we all have.
Stories and photos connect the dots and light the path for those of us left behind.
Sleepy died of Leukemia just 7 years after this photo was taken.
Our father was only 16.
What a portrait of beauty AND perseverance.
Beautiful Sleepy. We love you.