Ken Wahpecome, Kickapoo veteran, dies at 70

Kenneth Wahpecome, a Navy veteran and member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, died March 14 in Chula Vista, California, from complications of rheumatoid arthritis. He was 70.

Wahpecome was a talented golfer whose passion for the game once compelled him to hitchhike as a youth from Oklahoma all the way to the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

"One of his greatest loves was playing golf," said singer/songwriter Arigon Starr, his daughter. "When he wasn�t working, you could find him playing on a nearby course."

Born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Wahpecome attended school in Shawnee and Dale, Oklahoma, and the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas. He also attended Oklahoma Baptist University. Wahpecome met Ruth Cornell in 1953 and married her in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1957.

He joined the Navy in 1954 and served in numerous duty stations including NAS Pensacola, Patuxent River, Lakehurst and Jacksonville. He served on the USS Midway, USS Roosevelt, Little Rock and Tripoli. During his 20-year career, he crossed the Equator and the Article Circle and worked as an Aviation Mechanic, Recruiter (in Gallup, New Mexico), Career Counselor and Master-At-Arms.

His love of the game was fostered at the Elks Country Club in Shawnee, Oklahoma, where he started as a caddy. He played on the college golf team and the military golf team. He was the club champion in Gallup, New Mexico, and at the remote duty station of Subic Bay, Philippines.

Wahpecome loved sports, including college football. He was an enthusiastic fan of the Oklahoma Sooners.

His keen interest in country music also was a great influence on his daughter�s music career. In 2002, Starr wrote and performed a musical tribute to her father ("Daddy�s Records") that featured a guest performance by Grammy-nominated country group BR5-49. "My father was a big fan of their music because it sounded like the music he grew up with � Hank Williams, Sr., Bob Wills and Hank Thompson," Starr said.

Wahpecome was also a member of the Masons, Scottish Rite, Shrine and Eastern Star organizations. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Ruth Cornell Wahpecome and daughters Gay Noble and Arigon Starr.

Ken Wahpecome battled Rheumatoid Arthritis for over twenty years. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Arthritis Foundation online at or by phone at 1-800-283-7800. Condolences can be sent to the family c/o Ruth Wahpecome at 125 E. Naples St., Chula Vista, CA 91911.

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