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Pain remains from Palmyra man’s childhood lawn mower accident


Linda Geist
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9185

Photo available for this release:

Kent Rupp, who works for Northeast Power in Palmyra, lost the toes on one foot in a childhood lawn mower accident. MU Extension state health specialist Karen Funkenbusch says 37,000 people are injured annually in lawn mower accidents.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Northeast Power

Published: Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Story source:

Karen Funkenbusch, 573-884-1268

PALMYRA, Mo. – Kent Rupp climbed electric poles most of his working life. He played on his undefeated high school football team.

But a childhood accident left the 55-year-old crew foreman of the Northeast Missouri Electric Power Cooperative in Palmyra with lifelong foot pain.

Rupp is one of 37,000 individuals injured in lawn mower accidents each year, according to University of Missouri Extension state health specialist Karen Funkenbusch.

Rupp lost the toes of his right foot in a mowing accident when he was 3. He and other relatives were visiting at their grandparents’ home during his grandmother’s illness.

Everyone pitched in to help. Chores needed to be done.

An older cousin mowed the yard. Young Rupp went outside and slipped on freshly cut grass. His right foot slid under the riding mower’s blades, which severed four toes.

One uncle wrapped a towel around his mangled, bleeding foot. Another uncle drove him to the hospital.

The uncles summoned his parents. His mother screamed and cried all of the way to the hospital as his worried father drove.

Rupp remembers telling family members to “put a Band-Aid on it” before he had surgery to remove the remaining toe. His father, Bob Rupp, remembers that the doctor told him and his wife not to look shocked when the bandages were removed, and to be positive.

“We just took it in stride,” his father says. An accident could happen to anyone at any time.

Back home, young Rupp returned to racing his siblings through the house, even though he had to crawl. He learned to walk again as he healed. And there wasn’t a tree he didn’t climb, says his mother, Donna Rupp. Football and other typical school activities remained within reach.

Even so, the Rupps had trouble finding shoes that properly fit their son. Today he wears an orthotic insert in his shoe to make up for the lack of flexibility in his foot. He has pain from the breakdown and deterioration of foot tissue.

Rupp followed in is father’s footsteps at Northeast Power. His 36-year job as a lineman and crew foreman might seem unlikely for someone missing a large part of a foot, but he’s never missed a beat.

His childhood injury has not grounded him. He continues to work and he and wife, Vaness, have a grandbaby to keep him on the move.

Funkenbusch gives the following advice:

• Don’t let children under 12 operate a push mower. Children should be 16 or older to use a riding mower.

• Pick up rocks, toys and other objects in the yard before mowing.

• Don’t let young children sit with you on riding mowers when the blade is engaged.

• Don’t mow a wet lawn. Slipping on rain-soaked grass is the leading cause of foot injuries from power mowers, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

• Don’t wear sandals or sneakers when mowing. Wear heavy shoes or work boots.

• Don’t go up and down slopes. Mow slowly across slopes.

• Never pull a running mower backward.

If you are injured:

• Seek treatment right away. Infection can occur quickly.

• Flush the wound with water.

• Apply antibiotic cream to prevent infection.

For more safety information, go to and type “safety” in the search box.