Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Semper Fi, Fred Ropkey


Fred Ropkey died Nov. 7 after a long struggle with cancer. He was 84.

Fred’s amazing collection of armored vehicles and other militaria constituted the Ropkey Armor Museum east of Crawfordsville, Ind.

I first met Fred in the late 1980s when he still lived on the northwestside of Indianapolis. I shot this photo of him on the tank he made available for the 1984 James Garner film “Tank” for a story in The Indianapolis News. (Garner’s autograph in on the inside of the turret.)

After I retired and moved to Boone County, I was pleased to note that Fred had moved his home and collection to a farm just north of Ind. 32 and east of its interchange with I-74, not far from our Thorntown home.

fred ropkeyI dropped in to photograph Fred and some of his collection for the Crawfordsville Journal Review in March, 2007 and he graciously gave me a tour of his collection and his beautiful renovated house.

The last time I saw Fred was Aug. 27, 2009 when I was in Indiana with Charlie Parsons for the Indianapolis MotoGP. Fred welcomed us, turned us loose in his museum and went off to cut firewood.

He was a friend to thousands of veterans and was one of the few people in Crawfordsville who knew that Crawfordsville native Phil Ward was one of the Marines who raised the first American flag on the summit of Mt. Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima. I helped publicize Ward’s achievement in the Journal Review in the days following Ward’s death just after Christmas, 2005.

His wife Lani said she will keep the museum going in Fred’s memory, but would welcome financial assistance.

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