A. Kephart

Obituary of A. Evans Kephart

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The Honorable A. Evans Kephart, a resident of Spearfish, South Dakota, died suddenly and peacefully, at the Dorsett Regional Senior Care facility, on Sunday January 6th. He was 102. Keppie (or sometimes Evans), as he was known to his friends, enjoyed a full measure of life and then some. Born on December 21, 1905, in Ebensburg, PA., he enjoyed growing up in a small town best known for coal mining. He was the son of the Honorable John W. Kephart, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and Florence Evans Kephart. He was also the grandson of the Honorable Alvin Evans, a two term U S Congressman representing Cambria County, PA. He attended grade school in Ebensburg and then went on to successfully attend a series of Ivy League schools. He graduated from The Lawrenceville School in 1923, Princeton University in 1927, and Harvard Law School in 1930. After graduating Harvard and passing the Bar exam, Keppie initially earned his living grading the Bar Exam for the Review Board and worked as the Assistant City Solicitor for Philadelphia. He was only a year and a half out of law school when he filed an appellate brief before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court appealing the city's, until then, limited right to take water of the neighboring Schuylkill River for municipal purposes. Even more daunting, his opposing counsel was the former Chief Justice Robert von Moschzisker. Keppie won the appeal for more water for the city and their legal water rights became 100% of the minimum flow of the Schuylkill. His water rights win in the early 1930's has positively impacted the lives of millions of Philadelphians ever since. This case prompted an enduring interest in both appellate law and riparian rights. He went on to practice law at the Montgomery McCracken law firm and was elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate in the late 1930's. A lifelong Republican, he served four terms, 16 years, in the Senate, representing the South Philadelphia district, which, oddly enough, was strongly Democrat. During that time, he got to work on a variety of interesting legislation, including approving the creation of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the first modern super highway ever constructed in the United States. Professionally, Keppie went on to practice law on his own, culminating with his forming a partnership, in the late 50's, with former Minnesota Governor and sometime presidential candidate, Harold Stassen. The firm of Stassen & Kephart, although a boutique Philadelphia firm, maintained an impressive roster of corporate clients and offered legal services in a variety of specialties including corporate, international, government contract, intellectual property, real estate, transactional, and trusts and estates law. In 1968, then Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer appointed Keppie as the first State Court Administrator for the Commonwealth. The job entailed re-organizing the entire judiciary into a common reporting system and creating a set of uniform policies, procedures, and budget requirements. He reported directly to the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court. Keppie retired in 1973 and, along with wife Marie, built a vacation home in Tucson, where he wintered until 1986. He also spent every summer from his youth until 2003 in West Yellowstone, MT at his Bar N Ranch. The Bar N was both a summer cattle operation and a dude ranch. Keppie's step-granddad had purchased it from homesteaders in 1894 and it had passed down through the family over the years. Keppie was at his best and happiest when he was at the Bar N. Since he was an avid, life-long fly fisherman, the Bar N Ranch fronting the South Fork of the Madison River and Hebgen Lake, was ideally suited as his base for fishing trips. He spent summers with his family at the Bar N& and his children loved it. In August every year, his guest ranch became the "summer home" for regular guests from around the US that included politicians, business leaders, world-class physicians, and exceptional characters from all walks of life. They shared a common love of fishing and enjoyed good food, drink, raucous stories, and cherished family time in a beautiful and peaceful place. Keppie and wife Marie always played host to a great group of loyal friends and extended family, whether in Montana, Arizona, or Philadelphia. Keppie was a member of several clubs and organizations, including: The Philadelphia Country Club, The Union League Club of Philadelphia, The Groundhog Table, The Clover Club, and The Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. In addition to his love of fly fishing, Keppie was an avid chess player and enjoyed reading western novels. In August 1992, Keppie unexpectedly lost Marie and he found himself a widower at 86. Undaunted, he created a new adventure for himself and re-arranged his life to relocate to the San Diego area in early 1994. He moved in with son Sam and his wife Sammie, who had only recently been married. It was a major change for everyone, but one that worked out well, since Keppie lived with them in a guest cottage as they grew their family to include two daughters, Lexie and Allison. In 2003, Sam and Sammie (a native of Mitchell, South Dakota) decided they wanted a lifestyle change and made the decision to move to Spearfish. Keppie moved with them, arriving in the middle of January 2004. Although advancing in years, Keppie was able to live on his own in Spearfish with the care of his companion/aide, Angel, who was a great cook and looked after him. He maintained his independent living arrangement until early December just past, when he entered the Dorsett, a skilled nursing home in Spearfish. Up until his death, Keppie's mind was sharp and his humor remained intact. Keppie was blessed with a great and long life& half again the measure of time most men are granted. Keppie will be best remembered for his love of the law, personal integrity, his quiet and unquestioned loyalty to his wide circle of friends and lively characters, his appreciation of the West, his devotion to fly fishing, and his generosity to others. Although he outlived all his best friends and college classmates, he will be sorely missed by dozens still living who knew him. Keppie was preceded in death by his brother Jack and sister Henrietta. He is survived by daughter Susy Simpson of Wynnewood, PA, daughter and son-in-law Kate and Chris Barnes of Hancock, NH, son Jim Kephart of Butte, MT, and his Spearfish family, son Sam Kephart, daughter-in-law, Sammie, and grand-daughters Lexie and Allison. Four other grandchildren and eight great grandchildren also survive him. Funeral services will be on Thursday, January 17th at 6 PM at Fidler-Isburg Funeral Chapel, 450 North 7th. Street, Spearfish, SD. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service. A reception will follow at 401 Aspen Drive, Spearfish. Additional services will be held in Ebensburg, on Saturday, January 19th. Friends will be received from 1:00 p.m., until the time of brief service and committal at 2:00 p.m. at the Askew-Houser Funeral Homes, Inc., Ebensburg. Entombment and Committal will immediately follow at Lloyd Cemetery. A reception will be held in Philadelphia, PA on Sunday, January 20th from 1 PM - 4 PM at Ryan Hall at The Episcopal Academy, 376 Latches Lane, Merion, PA. For questions, please call Fidler-Isburg Funeral Chapel at (605) 642-2633. In lieu of flowers, donations in Keppie s name should be sent to The Episcopal Academy, 376 Latches Lane, Merion, PA 19066
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Service held at: Funeral Home: Askew-Houser Funeral Homes
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A. Kephart

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A. Kephart

1905 - 2008

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