Fred Kappus tended to Baha’i communities on two continents even as he looked after his fruit farm. With his wife of many years, Betty, he located in Peru and Ecuador for several years as a Baha’i pioneer, and in later years traveled back and forth between his home base in western New York and a number of locales in Latin America.
Fred passed away January 25, 2012, at age 96 in Buffalo, New York.
In a letter of tribute, the National Spiritual Assembly wrote, “[Y]our father will be remembered as an exemplary soul who impressed everyone he met with his spirituality, his humility, his steadfast ability to engage in hard work, and his kind, loving nature. Here one may recall the words of our beloved Master, ‘A person declaring the glad tidings of the appearance of the realities and significances of the Kingdom is like unto a farmer who scatters pure seeds in the rich soil.’”
Born in 1915 to a dairy farm family in Eden, New York, Frederick Carlton Kappus as a young man established his own fruit farm only a few dozen miles away in Burt, next to Lake Ontario. A Bahá’í since 1938, he was married to Betty a few years later. They opened their home to guests regularly for gatherings to discuss the Faith.
When American Baha’is were being urgently called on to relocate as pioneers to serve the Faith in other countries, the family — now including four children — moved to Arequipa, Peru, in 1958. Two years later they were in Otavalo, Ecuador, an early center of growth of the Faith in South America.
Fred was active in teaching the Faith throughout this five-year sojourn in South America. He served on Local Spiritual Assemblies and committees in both countries, and helped consolidate Baha’i communities.
The family “soon became loved throughout the villages and jungles for their remarkable warmth and generosity,” an online tribute says.
Back at Kappus Farm in 1963, Fred continued his local Baha’i activity as well as volunteering time and support for other Baha’is, especially young people who wanted to serve internationally.
In 1973, Fred and Betty traveled back to Otavalo to spend the winter. As a Baha’i radio station was under development in the area, the Kappuses complemented that effort by developing audiovisual materials on basic teachings of the Faith as well as participating in its administration. He worked person-to-person in many localities to foster the unity and organization of local Baha’i communities.
Winter destinations on similar missions over the next dozen or so years also included Peru, Mexico, Uruguay and the Caribbean. On one trip to Ecuador they marveled that the Baha’i presence in Imbabura province alone had grown from a handful of communities during their first visit to more than 100 local communities in the late 1970s.
Back home Fred helped build the Baha’i community in the Town of Newfane, at one point participating in the founding of its first-ever Local Spiritual Assembly.
Betty, his wife, preceded him in death in 1995. Fred managed one more large-scale international trip for the Baha’i Faith after that: traveling to Tahiti in early 2000, where he was an honored guest at a special interfaith celebration in Paea. Over three months he was active in supporting several Baha’i communities and, according to one account, “spread joy through his spirituality and loving nature.”
Survivors of Fred Kappus include three daughters, Nancy Schear of North Carolina, Gail Butler and Jan Steggles of New York; a son, Tom Kappus of New York; and 10 grandchildren.
Information from the Office of International Pioneering and the Kappus family