The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 9, 2010

Longtime Democrat dies at 81

By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — When Ruby Sapp wanted him to come to Joplin to speak at a Democratic event, she knew how to make that happen, former Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson recalled Monday.

The longtime Democratic activist would call, Wilson said, and tempt him with one of her homemade blackberry cobblers.

“Ruby found out my weakness very quickly, and she never had trouble getting me to Joplin for a speaking engagement,” said Wilson, Missouri lieutenant governor from 1993 to 2000 who served as governor for three months after Mel Carnahan was killed in a plane crash in October 2000.

Wilson, former chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party, also remembered Sapp as “a tireless worker for the party, and all of us who were candidates.”

Sapp, 81, died Thursday. Funeral services were Monday at the First Presbyterian Church of Joplin. A longtime Jasper County Democratic committeewoman and volunteer, Sapp for years was secretary to the county’s central committee. She was a Missouri delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1996.

“The world is a better place for Ruby Sapp passing through it,” Wilson said. “She always had a smile, and it was always on her face and in her voice.”

He and others recalled her work on behalf of Democratic candidates.

“She’d do the calling, and she’d be there first to open up and set up, then she would do anything else needed to make events happen,” Wilson said. “And she did all that in an area where it was hard to be a Democrat.”

Doug Brooks, of Joplin, a member of the Democratic National Committee, said he saw Sapp as “a prime example of how to be an active participant in politics.”

“She did all the things to make sure the party functioned at the local level, and she did them very, very well,” he said.

Brooks said Sapp “worked tirelessly, making the phone calls and stuffing the envelopes, and then she was able to go to the national convention. She was thrilled to go and enjoyed the dickens out of it.”

Susan DeCarlo, chairwoman of the Jasper County Democratic Central Committee, said she became involved in the local party about 10 or 12 years ago at Sapp’s encouragement.

She said Sapp worked hard locally, and she also worked to cultivate and maintain relationships with Democrats throughout the state. She also remembered Sapp’s cooking.

“She’d invite you to her house, and when you got there, she’d be taking cookies out of the oven,” DeCarlo said.