Alison Tappan - Brookings

May 3, 1956 - Nov. 16, 2020

Alison A. Tappan was born in Kansas City, Kansas, May 3, 1956, and died peacefully at home in Brookings, South Dakota, on Nov. 16, 2020, after a long battle with cancer. She was the daughter of Roger P. Adams of Clay Center, Kansas and Lorraine A. Lensink of Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. She grew up in suburban Kansas City, Kansas, and at the age of nine moved with her family to Burr Ridge (Chicago), Illinois, where she completed high school, graduating in 1974. She attended Knox College for two years, then transferred to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology in 1978.
Alison met Gray Tappan in Lawrence, and they married in Illinois in 1979. They then moved to Friendswood, Texas when Gray was hired by NASA. In 1982, they relocated to Dakar, Senegal, where Gray began employment with South Dakota State University’s (SDSU’s) Remote Sensing Institute on an international development project. They spent three fascinating years immersed in West African nature, culture, hospitality and cuisine. While in Senegal, Alison became proficient in French, and worked part time at the U.S. Embassy. She and Gray also made several memorable trips to neighboring countries, and to Western Europe where they visited family and friends. In 1985, they moved to Brookings.
Alison was always an avid reader with a deep appreciation for libraries, so she immediately began volunteering at the Brookings Public Library. She received two awards for several thousand hours of volunteer work. In 2004, she began official employment as a library assistant before working full-time as Circulation Manager from 2010 to 2016. She retired in December 2019
Many in Brookings will remember Alison as a prolific artist and quilter. She made dozens of quilts in her lifetime, some of which have been displayed at regional quilt shows and at the Brookings Public Library. Alison also excelled in knitting, making Japanese Tamari balls, painting Ukrainian Easter Eggs, and dying her own fabrics. She led several community workshops at the Brookings Public Library to introduce and teach these art forms to anyone interested.
Alison was a person of great resolve, always taking new challenges in stride. In her fifties, she enrolled (unofficially) in Spanish classes at SDSU and eventually completed the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. Likewise, she took up long distance running with a group of friends known as “The Turtles.”
With them, she ran in many local races and completed six half marathons – including one at 6,000 feet elevation in the Central Mexican city of Querétaro.
Over the years, Alison and Gray raised their three children in Brookings. As a mother, Alison valued family over all else. She cultivated a home full of love and embodied the virtues of selflessness, empathy, honesty, generosity and gentle kindness. In this respect, Alison set a powerful example for her children and many others. She helped build a culture of community and mutual support in her immediate neighborhood and cherished her role as a universal motherly figure within that community.
After her children left home, she continued to fill that role by joining the Brookings Youth Mentoring Program.
Alison was predeceased by her parents, a sister, Ellen Adams, and is survived by her husband, her children Taylor (Silvia) Tappan, Erin (Jonathan) Smail, Bryce Tappan, her brothers, Bruce (Donna) Adams, Scott (Diana) Adams, Keith (Linda) Adams, and a sister, Rebecca Adams.
A celebration of her life will be planned for a later date in 2021. Memorial donations can be made to the Friends of the Brookings Public Library, either by mail to the library or dropped off at the circulation desk.
Condolences may be sent to the family through


More In Obituaries