NORMAN — Frank H. Wahpepah Jr., of Edmond and a longtime resident of Shawnee, died Thursday, April 24, 2014, after a brief illness. Mr. Wahpepah was born March 31, 1934, in Shawnee, the son of Frank H. Wahpepah Sr. and Susie Namatho Wahpepah.
Mr. Wahpepah attended Dale schools and graduated from Dale High School, where he was a three-year basketball letterman and captain of the basketball team and a four-year baseball letterman. He served as a young caddy at the Elks Country Club on Acme Road and was a life-long golfer.
Mr. Wahpepah joined the United States Navy on Nov. 4, 1952, in Oklahoma City. He underwent basic training at the U.S. Naval Training Center in San Diego, where he was selected the Honorman of graduating Company 0856 for superior performance. Mr. Wahpepah was then stationed at the Alameda Naval Air Station in Alameda, Calif., on the San Francisco Bay, where he played on the Alameda “Hellcats” basketball team. He served aboard three aircraft carriers during the Korean War — the U.S.S. Kearsarge (CV-33), the U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) and the U.S.S. Oriskany (CV-34) — based in Yokosuka, Japan.
Mr. Wahpepah was injured during his shipboard service and spent three months recuperating at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. He was honorably discharged from active duty on Jan. 18, 1957, and then served in the U.S. Naval Reserves until his honorable discharge from the Reserves on Nov. 3, 1960. He received the National Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
Following active duty, Mr. Wahpepah lived and worked in Los Angeles, where he met his beloved wife of 43 years, Betty Jean Maney. They were married on Oct. 26, 1957, at Precious Blood Catholic Church in Los Angeles until her death on June 1, 2000.
Mr. Wahpepah earned a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma Baptist University and a master’s in public health from the University of California, Los Angeles. During his career, he worked for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Indian Health Service, where he was the first tribal member to serve as service unit director of the Claremore Indian Hospital. Following his retirement from federal service, he worked for a number of area tribes directing health services at clinics and hospitals. His last assignment before retirement was serving as the hospital director of the Creek Nation Community Hospital in Okemah.