Sylvia Kappen remembered By Rachel Kelly
Sylvia Kappen was born Sylvia Hadley in Pohnpei, Micronesia, in 1962. She was raised by her grandparents and didn’t really know her mother. Most of her family that she did know were from her father’s side of the family; she was the oldest of 15 children. She came to the states when she accompanied her aunt as a nanny to her nephews (whom she would call her brothers). She began to reside more permanently in the United States when her aunt remarried, and her uncle adopted her and very much regarded her as part of their family.
Sylvia grew up both wanting a closer family, while appreciating the family that she had. This was a lesson that she learned young, and throughout her life she valued the importance of what it means to be family. Because family was what she valued most, and also at times what she lacked, she poured herself into raising her children. She also extended that hand of family out to whomever was around her. “It was something I loved about her. She was very open. She had a way of bringing people together, and of appreciating people for who they were,” says Kraig Kappen, Sylvia’s husband.
She would later work as a gifted beautician and was very successful in the Bellevue area. She met Kraig through a mutual friend, who suggested that she cut Kraig’s hair. On their first date in 1991, they went out to dinner. After dating for four years, the couple were married on September 22, 1995, which was the anniversary of their first date. Sylvia danced a Polynesian dance for her husband at their ceremony, and they then celebrated their reception at the restaurant where they went on their first date. In 1997, they had their first son, which prompted their move from Washington back to Sandpoint, Idaho, where Kraig was from.
First and foremost, Sylvia was a mother. Her boys were her first love. As a result, where her sons went, so did she. She picked up many friends and family along the way for whom she would have a lifelong impact. Much of her community involvement came as a natural result of the activities that she shared with her sons. When they were in preschool, she got involved in the decisions that impacted their lives and volunteered at their school. Later, she would return to teach there for 12 years. “She just didn’t believe in closing doors,” says Faith Rasmussen of Little Lambs preschool. When Sylvia’s boys moved on to grade school and beyond, she always found ways to be involved in their day to day. She immersed herself in the PTA for many years, and when her oldest played high school football, she was a dedicated team mom. She was very active in church and emphasized her relationship with Jesus. It was something that she lived out in the way that she loved others.
“She had a quiet, kind way about her,” says Faith. “She had a real gift of service. She gave and gave but was never resentful about it.” Faith, who describes her relationship with Sylvia as one where they raised their children together, often reminded her friend that she might be burning the candle at both ends. However, it may have just been that Sylvia had a lot of life to fit into her 52 years.
Wherever Sylvia was, there was life! She loved to organize luaus and gatherings where she would cook for several hundred people. She had an open-home policy and invited her larger community to share in the blessing of food and community. It wasn't long before her food became legendary, and she was occasionally hired to cater for community events. She traveled to see her family, her siblings, cousins, and aunties. She prized quality time with those she loved best. So, when her sons started football with the Sandpoint High School football team, she volunteered her time to cook.
“I feel that I can humbly say that our household is stable, but even so, it’s pretty crazy,” says Coach Ryan Knowles. “Everyone is going different directions. And so, when I thought about our team and our edge, I thought that we should start feeding the boys on the team. We lifted and we ate, and that was our edge.”
The money for the food was raised for the team, and Sylvia and the other team moms would devote themselves to feeding 80 to 90 people five days a week. Eating a meal after practice was a part of making sure the boys on the team were healthy, and that the whole family got fed amid the busy family schedule (often siblings and parents joined in on the communal meal). Wherever Sylvia was, community followed and people gathered. Her meals and her compassionate spirit brought people together and allowed her an opportunity to care for her people.
In remembrance of Sylvia, her community has done many things. She was well loved in Micronesia, for whom she had ties to royalty. Her great grandfather was king before the island's occupation. For many weeks, the people of the island mourned, and most likely will hold her in remembrance on the anniversary of her death for years to come. The Sandpoint football teams are remembering Sylvia by naming their yearly golf scramble and auction after her, which she had a large hand in starting. In Sandpoint, her community remembers her through their collective memory and still supports her family with love as only a tight-knit community can. Most of all, Sylvia is remembered by Sandpoint by continuing in Sylvia’s legacy of love. Because of her, we in Sandpoint are that much closer and that much generous.
Sylvia passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack, surrounded by friends—as is fitting. In heaven she has found a place where her scars are healed, and her body is whole. She is remembered by her husband Kraig and their two sons. She is remembered by her extended family, and her brothers and sisters. She is remembered by her friends, her church, and her island. She is remembered by the whole of the Sandpoint community, for whom she loved and was loved by.