Although it was a somber occasion, there was nothing but love and appreciation expressed at a memorial tribute to Howard Hupe on Sunday, Aug. 6, at the Community Center.
Following a tri-tip dinner provided by the City of Winters, the Rotary Club of Winters, the Winters Theatre Company, the Winters Senior Foundation, the Winters Chamber of Commerce, and local citizens Emily Donlevy and Edie Hagelis, the evening began with a song by WTC member Jim Hewlett, “Stranger in Paradise,” which was one of Hupe’s favorite songs, followed by a loving welcome from WTC president Anita Ahuja, who served as MC for the evening.
A list of speakers representing various facets of activities in the community in which Hupe played a key role then took the microphone, beginning with City Manager John Donlevy, who recalled meeting Hupe amongst his first experiences when taking his position at City Hall, the day before 9-11.
Donlevy noted that Hupe was thoroughly knowledgeable about Winters history and local attractions, and was called upon frequently to step in and serve as Winters’ ambassador. In particular, he told of the time that Hupe escorted Huell Howser around town on a moment’s notice when Howser came to film one of his “California Gold” segments here.
Mayor Wade Cowan listed the many projects Hupe was involved with, including the establishment of the Winters Visitors Center and local agritours, and Bobbie Greenwood told of Hupe’s history with the AFS program.
Larry Justus choked back tears as he recalled times with his “best friend,” including many humorous memories with their time together while performing in Winters Theatre Company productions over the years, going back to the days when the WTC’s biggest fan, the flamboyant Dudley Reid, who faithfully attended productions and left a portion of his estate to the theater company, helping it to establish itself in the community.
Linda Glick, also a co-founder of the Winters Theatre Company, expressed bittersweet appreciation of Hupe, recalling her own memories, and floated the idea of a Howard Hupe Memorial Theater in the future, which would finally provide the Winters Theatre Company with its own permanent home, building upon substantial funds left by Reid that still have not been spent. The suggestion was met with cheers and applause.
Former Winters Chamber of Commerce President Debra DeAngelo noted the many Chamber activities that Hupe helped coordinate for many years, including the annual Citizen of the Year banquet and awards presentation, the Work Ready program at Winters High School, agritours and the completion of the downtown “wayfinder” signs.
Throughout all the commentary was endless praise for Hupe’s commitment to Winters, his major contribution to the Winters Theatre Company and his famous dry wit.
Following the speakers was another song by Jim Hewlett, “Somewhere My Love,” also one of Hupe’s favorites, and then a series of performances by Winters Theatre Company members, including a scene from WCT’s current play, “Twelfth Night,” a take on Jimmy Fallon’s “thank you notes” skit with thank you notes from WTC members read aloud, a skit on “How to Handle a Woman” as Hupe might — accompanied by a suave vintage photo of Hupe placed on stage, a tribute to the historical walking tours Hupe founded to the tune of “Walking in Memphis” with a Winters twist, “spontaneous” auditions for the upcoming performance of “The Wizard of Oz,” and a video of some of Hupe’s WTC performances over the years, compiled by Linda Glick and Elliot Landes.
Pianist Debbie Bowen provided musical accompaniment over the course of the evening, as she has in many WTC plays, and finished with a heartfelt solo of her own, “You Made Me Love You.”
Surely the highlight of the entire tribute came when Hupe’s wife of nearly 59 years, Germaine, came to the mic, showing good humor and pluck despite this time of grief. She was welcomed with resounding applause, cheers, and a standing ovation. She told the quite humorous story of how she and Howard met while he was an officer in the U.S. Army ,and a first date that went awry but ended up in a second date and eventual marriage — they eloped because Howard was called back to active duty before they could make their wedding plans.
Germaine’s voice was thick with gratitude as she thanked everyone who came and who offered words or performances in Howard’s honor, and reminded the audience that “although our address is in Davis, Howard’s heart was in Winters.”
Hupe, who passed away on July 19 following long-term health complications, was remembered as an officer and a gentleman, as well as a friend and loyal Winters community volunteer.
During his long and prestigious service in the Army, from which Hupe retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, he served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, receiving the Silver and Bronze Stars for valor in combat in addition to the Purple Heart. He additionally received the Combat Infantry Badge with star, indicating that he had borne arms for his country while serving as an Infantry officer under hostile fire in two major conflicts. Those in attendance had the privilege of viewing Hupe’s medals at the tribute on Sunday, along with many family photos over the years.
In addition to a stellar military career, after settling in Davis, the Hupes quickly became connected to the Winters community. Howard was a counselor at Winters High School in the 1970s, and Germaine was an English teacher there 29 years. Following their retirements, the Winters Theatre Company became one of their star projects, where they produced, directed and performed in scores of shows over several decades.
Howard directed almost 100 plays for the WTC, was a longtime Chamber of Commerce board member, serving as president as well as past president on the executive board for several years. He was the first Yolo County resident to be selected as president for the California State Family Service Agency. The Hupes were named Winters Citizens of the Year in 1986. Hupe was also a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Winters, where he also volunteered at multiple events and activities.