Hans K. Kappel

Hans K. Kappel

ALTAMONT — Hans K. Kappel of Altamont — described by his family as a devoted dad and grandpa — died in his sleep of natural causes at Our Lady of Mercy Life Center on Thursday, April 18, 2019, following hospitalization for a sepsis infection. He was 87.

“His body simply wore out after years of successfully battling many chronic diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, bladder and kidney cancers, spinal problems, and cardiovascular disease,” his wife, Joan Kappel, wrote in a tribute.

He was born in 1931 in Bad Nauheim, Germany, the middle son of Karl Conrad Kappel and Emmy Ida Stamm.

“He attended school in Bad Nauheim, then served an apprenticeship there as an auto mechanic — on Chevrolets!” his wife wrote. “While living in Germany during World War II, he was hit on the head with burning timbers in a fire started by bombs dropped by American forces. He recovered from his injuries, but the scar never went away.”

Mr. Kappel came to the United States at the age of 18 in 1950. He lived with an aunt in New York City while he worked as a machinist, and learned English from TV.  He was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the 3rd Infantry Division in Korea, where he advanced to sergeant. After completing Army service, he lived with his mother and younger brother, Gary, in Sunnyside, Queens, as they had also arrived in America.

“Shortly after his return from Korea, he met Joan Plauth of Altamont in person,” the tribute said. “She had been his pen pal during his Korean service. They were ‘introduced’ by Joan’s grandfather and Hans’s uncle who suggested to Hans that he send her a birthday card. Both men, with their wives, operated German-American boarding houses in the Catskills.”

“When I received that initial birthday greeting from Hans from Korea for my 16th  birthday, I read it and knew then that he was the person I would marry,” his wife wrote. “Sounds corny and made up, but it is true. We actually met three days after his discharge following his long rail trip across the northern U.S.

“Because of Hans’s Army service, he was able to become a U.S. citizen soon after. Not like today where a non-citizen soldier willing to give his or her life for the U.S. risks deportation for a traffic offense because of the nasty turn our country’s politics has taken. He hated the ways that our country is assimilating beliefs held in Nazi Germany when he was a boy, and that so many Americans are oblivious to this.”

Hans Kappel and Joan Plauth were married three years after that first meeting, and recently celebrated their 60th anniversary.

Mr. Kappel attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania under the GI Bill, graduating with a degree in physics. He and his wife moved to Ithaca where he was employed at Cornell University’s Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics, until his father-in-law prevailed upon him to join the family business, Blue Spruce Farms in Altamont. Mr. Kappel was a life member of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science.

“Hans enjoyed camping, boating, hiking, gardening, and classical and folk music,” the tribute said. “Over the years, Hans and Joan (and later, with their daughters, Alison and Jennifer) camped from Maine to Florida.

“He taught Navigation and Seamanship to fellow boat-owners while a member of the United States Power Squadron in Ithaca. He organized chicken barbecues for various groups

“He was a Master Forest Owner and guided new forest-owners on forest stewardship. He was a member of the New York Forest Owners Association, Northeastern Woodworkers Association, and the Friends of John Boyd Thacher State Park. He volunteered his time in many capacities, and was never one to say no to someone in need of help.”


Hans K. Kappel is survived by his wife, Joan Kappel of Altamont; by his daughter, Jennifer Lynne Kappel Cornell of Charlton; and by his grandchildren, Jarrell Gatterson of Altamont, and Nicole Cornell of Charlton.

He is also survived by his elder brother, Fred Kappel, and his wife, Charlotte, of Sun City Center, Florida; by his sisters-in-law, Virginia Pieck and her husband, John, Lorraine Plauth, and Jeanne Plauth; by his son-in-law, David Cornell; and by several nieces and nephews.

His daughter Alison Lee Kappel Gatterson died in 2012. His younger brother, Gary, also died before him.

Mr. Kappel has donated his body to the Anatomical Gift Program of Albany Medical College.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Friends of John Boyd Thacher State Park, 87 Nature Center Way, Voorheesville, NY 12186-2601. Or go to http://www.friendsofthacherpark.org.


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