Former Booches owner dies in house fire near Washington, Missouri

Bob Rappold was a well-known restaurateur and poet.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 | 6:46 p.m. CST; updated 11:26 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 13, 2010

COLUMBIA — Bob Rappold, a long-time restaurateur, chef and former co-owner of Booches in downtown Columbia, died after a house fire Sunday at his home near Washington, Mo.

Jerry Dethrow of Columbia, who with Rappold and Mick Jabbour bought Booches in 1976, said Wednesday that Rappold was “one of my earliest and longest friends.”

“I knew many of his dreams, and he pursued most of them,” said Dethrow, who met Rappold “on a baseball diamond” and attended high school with him.

Poetry was among their common interests, and all three had worked at Booches before they pursued their collective dream of owning a restaurant by buying the Columbia landmark 34 years ago.

Dethrow called them the “three poets who knew they couldn’t make a living in poetry,” and he referred to their first several years as the owners of Booches as the restaurant’s “golden years.”

Although the business was important to them, Dethrow said he could not “emphasize enough” how pivotal poetry was to their friendship. He and Rappold even published a literary magazine, “Review La Booche,” before they bought the restaurant.

Dethrow eventually became the sole owner of Booches in 1993 and sold it in 2004.

Rappold, however, continued in the restaurant business. He and his wife opened Café Europa on Walnut Street in downtown Columbia in the mid 1980s. That’s where Mike Odette, a popular local chef and co-owner of Sycamore at Broadway and Eighth Street, got his start.   

“Bob gave me my first restaurant job,” Odette said. He worked with Rappold for two years at Café Europa, beginning in November 1988. Odette admitted “stretching” the description of his previous restaurant experience to get the Europa job.

“Bob was hilarious,” Odette said, adding that the atmosphere of Europa was like that of a family. Odette said his time there taught him much about the dining experience.

“A lot of what Sycamore is was from Café Europa.”

After Europa’s run, Rappold opened The Evergreen in Arrow Rock, which he operated for several years in the mid-'90s, Dethrow said. He then returned to Hermann and opened his second restaurant to be named Café Europa, this time in an old funeral home that featured a bar in a library setting. The Rappolds closed the Hermann restaurant in June.

Rappold was “very well-read, very literate,” Odette said. He also liked to collect old things: old books, old bookshelves and old Volvos. The house where the fire occurred was the former Newport Hotel and is the oldest brick building still standing in Franklin County, according to a story on the Washington Missourian’s Web site. It was said to have been built in 1826.

Fire Chief Bill Halmich of the Washington Volunteer Fire Company said the cause of Sunday’s fire remains under investigation. It started in a third-floor bedroom occupied by the Rappolds’ son, Sam, who was not home at the time.

Halmich said he was first to arrive at the scene of the late-afternoon fire and learned from Rappold's wife, Chris Essenpreis-Rappold, that her husband was on the third floor. He entered the house and searched on his hands and knees for Rappold with a flashlight, but he had to retreat when he encountered heavy smoke.

After firefighters arrived with full equipment, they were able to find Rappold within four feet of where Halmich was forced to turn back. Rappold was in “full cardiac arrest,” Halmich said, and he was rushed to St. John's Mercy Hospital in Washington, where he later died.

Along with his wife and son, Rappold is survived by a daughter, Marguerite Rappold of Kansas City, and a brother, Jerry Rappold of St. Louis.

Rappold was born May 14, 1948, in Jefferson City, the son of Roy A. and Mildred (Rector) Rappold. He and his wife were married on Oct. 12, 1979, in St. Louis.

A celebration of Rappold’s life will be held at Toedtmann & Grosse Funeral Home in Hermann at 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15, with the Rev. Bill Debo officiating. Memorials may be posted online at

A second memorial will be held at Booches in March.


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