Meet Tupper Briggs

Written by Stephen Knapp on .

By training and long practice, Tupper Briggs is a man of numbers. By simple good fortune, summarizing Tupper’s history by the numbers adds up to some pretty impressive figures.

Born in east Denver, he was the only brother to three sisters, one of them his twin. A diligent student, Tupper was also a popular one, and the president of his senior class at a still-fresh George Washington High School. “We were the first class to go through all three years at George Washington,” he says.

Graduating in 1964, Tupper spent a year at the University of Colorado before transferring to Oklahoma State University, where he earned a four-year degree in accounting. As diligent as ever, Tupper landed a plum desk in the Denver office of Ernst & Ernst, since re-named Ernst & Young, and even back then one of the nation’s premier purveyors of numbers. But a comfortable post one mile above sea-level wasn’t in the cards. Just six months into the job, Tupper saw his draft number bearing down fast and signed up for Officers Candidate School.

“I didn’t want to end up in the Infantry,” he says. “I went to engineering school at Fort Belvoir, in Virginia. It was pretty great. They built bridges, studied waterways, and blew things up with C-4. And I finished high enough in my class that I got to choose how to spend my hitch.” Tupper did the math and picked an Army finance and accounting assignment.

“I went to Vietnam as a disbursement officer.”

Stationed in Qui Nhon, a bustling port city about mid-way between Saigon and the hotly-contested 17th parallel, Tupper spent some of his down-time crunching numbers to satisfy his own curiosity.

“I started taking a poll of everybody I paid,” he says. “About five to ten percent were boots on the ground. The rest of us, more than 90 percent, were support.”

Tupper spent much of his up-time aboard helicopters, ferrying payrolls to forward-area fire-bases.

“We sat on the money,” he recalls. “They always flew at tree-top level to make us harder to hit, but people still shot at us, and we figured it was better to let them shoot the money than us.”

Alas, the Army has many means of conveying cash, and Tupper occasionally found himself delivering the dough by motorcade. On one such mission, his small convoy was grinding along an elevated road between low, tree-hemmed fields when enemy troops opened fire from cover with small-arms.

“The guys whose money I was carrying threw me in a hole,” Tupper laughs. The procession stopped cold, giving the four armored 60mm machine-gun mounts aboard the convoy’s accompanying “gun truck” opportunity to thoroughly hose down the tree-line. Tupper’s one and only firefight lasted maybe five minutes, which was, he thought, plenty.

Mustering out in 1972, Tupper and a friend wandered over to London, bought a pair of motorcycles and treated themselves to a leisurely tour of Europe. After one hitch in a war zone and a second on the open road, Tupper wasn’t immediately inclined to re-devote himself to digits and columns. Instead, he found work as a branch manager for ABC Records and Tapes in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood. He lasted a year in that post before moving on to a career that he could call home. Tupper hired on as a bean-counter with Junction Realty, a major player in Colorado at the time, and set about learning the business from foundation to weathervane. He relocated to the company’s Evergreen office in 1975, and one year later launched the single most rewarding venture of his life. “Karla worked at Junction Realty, and they wanted me to teach her bookkeeping. One day I saw a banjo next to her desk, and I asked her about it. She said she was taking lessons. The next day I bought a banjo and signed up for lessons with her banjo teacher. It was my sneaky way of courtship.”

Fact is, neither Karla nor Tupper ever became any great shakes on the banjo, but they both seem okay with that. They were married in 1978, and 10 years later purchased 10 acres of forest and meadow near Marshdale, just two miles from the Evergreen Highlands home where Karla was born and raised. They called their little piece of the Good Earth “Heart’s Ease” and soon multiplied their happiness by a factor of two. Their daughter, Megan, graduated from Evergreen High School in 1998, and now lives with her husband in Northampton, Mass. Their son, Ryan, and his wife live in Pasadena.

“We’re a profit center for Southwest Airlines,” grins Tupper, wryly.

Since shifting his flag to RE/MAX and hanging up a shingle on his own account, Tupper has earned just about every award, honor and accolade that the industry has to bestow, including one granted to precious few who work in the Realty line. About 10 years ago, Tupper joined the vanishingly small ranks of Realtors who’ve sold more than one billion dollars' worth of hearth and home, easily establishing himself as the area’s – and quite possibly the state’s – No. 1 private home seller. Ask Tupper about it, though, and he’ll tell you that remarkable achievement is simply a function of mathematics.

“It takes a long time to sell a billion dollars' worth of homes, and I can’t think of any Realtor in Colorado who’s been doing this as long as I have. I’m the Cal Ripken of Realtors.”

But great success requires great sacrifice, and these days the captain of “Tupper’s Team” is content to work a shorter schedule crunching numbers behind the scenes while his partners earn their spurs on the public end.

“I used to work 60 or 70 hours a week. It’s time to make up that time with Karla.” Karla and Tupper make up a lot of that time at Heart’s Ease, among Karla’s brilliant flower beds and long rows of ripening vegetables. The 10 acres they own are working acres; and, although their chicks have flown, they still share their heavenly homestead with a herd, flock and swarm of dependents. “We’ve got two horses, eight chickens, and thousands of bees,” Tupper smiles. In fact, with a little help from their tenants, Tupper and Karla are among the most generous local distributors of unprocessed organic fertilizers. “We call it ‘black gold,’ ” he says, with only the slightest hint of a smile. “Working Heart’s Ease has made me appreciate how integrated our lives are with Nature,” says Tupper. “That’s what prompted my involvement with EAS+Y.

Indeed, the Briggses are founding members of Evergreen Alliance for Sustainability (EAS+Y), and muddy-sleeved champions of the Evergreen Community Garden at Buchanan Park. And for three years and counting they’ve been taking their Earth-friendly message to the next generation of consumers.

“We visit every third-grade class in the area and give a puppet presentation encouraging the kids to use re-usable bags when they go to the grocery store. We give them a puppet show, and hand out fabric totes. If we can keep doing that for 10 years, we’ll have reached an entire generation of area kids, and that’s got to make some sort of difference.”

Karla and Tupper also apply their bright green thumbs to making a difference for some kids who attend a very different kind of area school. Little known locally, but nationally renowned, Forest Heights Lodge is both bedroom, classroom and last, best hope for emotionally disturbed boys right here in Evergreen.

“Forest Heights has a huge waiting list because it has an incredibly high success rate,” Tupper explains. “The Evergreen Garden Club does an event there. I go as a beekeeper and talk about pollination, and each boy gets a potted plant to nurture. Forest Heights keeps a very low profile, but they have a sterling reputation for getting results.”

And just this year, at the age of 67, Tupper Briggs – prominent local businessman, tireless community booster, munificent patron, gentleman farmer, and diligent student – graduated with Leadership Evergreen’s 15-member Class of 2013.

“For our class project we’re installing interpretive signs at Elk Meadow, Evergreen Lake and Staunton State Park. We must be gluttons for punishment, because that’s three different government agencies we have to get approval from. You wouldn’t believe the amount of red tape.”

Then again, Army payroll officers know something about red tape, accountants are no strangers to paperwork, successful Realtors know how to navigate the murky waters of government regulation, and those who keep bees are by nature both patient and persistent. By the numbers, those qualities add up to three interpretive signs, dozens of farm-fresh eggs, hundreds of neighbors helped, thousands of happy homeowners, and exactly one Tupper.

“I’m a lucky man.”