For the thousands of children and adults who love and cherish A Carousel for Missoula, the sad news arrived this week that Chuck Kaparich, a guiding force behind the project, died on Monday, June 28.

Executive Director for A Carousel for Missoula, Theresa Cox remembered Chuck Kaparich.

“It was absolutely all Chuck from the beginning,” said Cox. “Of course as time went on other people joined so it wasn't a one man process, but he's certainly the inspiration for the process and he was the one who kept us going and kept everything on the right track for all the time that the carousel was being built.”

Cox said Kaparich was deeply involved from the start of the carousel project.

“The project went public in August of 1991, and we opened of course on May 27th of 1995,” she said. “During all that time Chuck was intimately involved in every aspect of the carousel. He's the one who made sure that everything was done correctly, and that we just kept moving. There are a lot of carousels around that get started and they just kind of wander about because they don't have a chief, and he was definitely the leader of the project and the inspiration for it.”

Cox said many of the artists that contributed to the carousel learned their craft from Kaparich.

“Most of the people who carved on the carousel had not been carvers before the project,” she said. “Some of them learned from Chuck through an adult education class that he opened in 1991, but most of them just learned as they went along. They would come to carving class or carving sessions in Chuck's garage and pretty soon they were carvers.”

KGVO asked Cox to estimate how many rides the beautifully crafted horses and other animals have provided over the years, and she did.

“We do about 125,000 rides a year not counting last year, so for 25 years, I have a calculator, 25 times 125,000, looks like a little over 3 million. A wild guess, but that's pretty accurate.”

The Carousel will honor Kaparich with free rides from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  on the 4th of July, starting with an empty ride in his honor.

The lead horse, Columbia Belle will be draped in black and remain unridden in memory of Chuck Kaparich.

(photo by Ken James)


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