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Travers Ruppert

September 04, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Trav Ruppert holds his son, Trav Jr., in a pool in this picture taken in the late 1960s, when Trav Jr. was 3 or 4 years old.
Submitted photo,

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Joseph Travers Ruppert, who died Aug. 21 at the age of 74. His obituary appeared in the Aug. 23 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Somewhere between Elvis and Little Richard, the Beach Boys and the Beatles, and a touch of folk and soul, Travers Ruppert became a household name.

He wasn't flamboyant, he didn't have a catchy moniker and he wasn't a spectacle for the sake of being a spectacle.

Instead, he played music that became the soundtrack of a generation.

Every weeknight from the mid-1950s through the 1960s, Trav Ruppert reached thousands of young people with a radio show known as "Platter Party."

And he did it in an intimate way that made each person feel they were the most important listener.

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"He loved his job," said his son, Travers Boyd Ruppert. "He once told me something that has stuck with me. If you get paid money to do something you love to do, there's no greater success. If that's true, my father was very successful."

Joseph Travers Ruppert, known to most people as Trav, was born on Christmas Eve 1935 to Virginia Boyd Ruppert and Joseph Alphonsus Ruppert, a successful pharmaceutical salesman.

The family, which included a younger brother, Noel, lived in a rather exclusive neighborhood and had a maid and gardener, Trav's son said.

As a child, Trav displayed a talent for music, including singing and playing the ukulele and guitar.

"He would enter local contests and did pretty well," his son said.

His talents caught the attention of Al Ross, a well-known disc jockey from WBAL in Baltimore, who took the young man under his wing.

"He would take Dad to the radio station, introducing him to the world of entertainment," his son said. "Dad told me he was utterly blown away by the business and knew at that point that's what he wanted to do. He was probably 13 to 15 years old at the time."

As a young man, Trav had a mischievous streak, so his parents enrolled him at McDonough Military School in Baltimore.

But when his father lost his job and had to downsize, the family moved to Florida.

"Dad went to Sarasota High School, where he was introduced to another form of entertainment -- the circus," Trav's son said. "A lot of circus people lived in Sarasota during the winter and their children went to that particular high school. So the school had its own circus. Dad became a ringmaster.

"He loved that job. He enjoyed the limelight. He enjoyed entertaining people."

After Trav graduated from high school, he landed a disc jockey job with a radio station in Easton, Md.

"How that came about, I'm not sure," the younger Ruppert said. "He had a car and a little bit of money and headed north."

But it wasn't long before he had second thoughts about the job.

"He had to cover chicken auctions and hated it," his son said. "He began looking for another job and found it in Hagerstown with radio station WJEJ."

After several years, he began a career that would make him a local celebrity. He moved to radio station WARK and became host of "Platter Party."

But Uncle Sam had other plans for Trav, who from 1958 to 1962 served in the military in 5th Special Forces Group/ABN in Germany.

Of all his accomplishments, his family said he was most proud of his service to his country.

But even while he was in the military, he still wanted to be a disc jockey and his goal was to be a part of the Armed Forces Network (AFN).

So he learned to send and receive code and became very good at it. He also learned to break down a radio and put it back together -- "and in those days, they were big with a lot of components," his son said.

"Dad agreed to learn how to jump out of planes and was with the Green Beret for awhile. With his radio expertise and communications training, he accompanied the unit behind enemy lines. Later, he realized his dream when he was transferred to Armed Forces Network. For two years, he continued his communications work and also played rock and roll for U.S. servicemen and Europeans, broadcasting out of Stein Castle in Germany. He absolutely loved that castle, he later told me."

After his tour of duty, Trav returned to Hagerstown and his job with WARK. He also got married and started a family.

Trav married Donna Rohrer, a Williamsport native, on Feb. 17, 1963.

"When Trav first came to the area, my friends and I, known as the PJ Kids, would call in to 'Platter Party' for requests," Donna Rohrer Allen said. "I also came into the station every Saturday as part of a program called 'High News,' where each high school representative would read the news. I would talk to Trav a lot."

While he was in the military, Donna said she would send a letter off to him at least once a week.

Years later, the couple began dating and married.

Travers Boyd was born in 1964. An infant son, Todd Kendall, died in 1965.

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