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Bokeelia man celebrates centennial birthday

By Staff | May 20, 2020

Wilbur Riepel, referred to by many as "Pop," celebrated his 100th birthday on Tuesday, May 12. PAULETTE LEBLANC

Wilbur Riepel, referred to by many as “Pop,” a World War II veteran who lives in Bokeelia, celebrated his 100th birthday on Tuesday, May 12. Riepel, who lives with his son Wilbur Ronald Riepel Jr., celebrated his centennial birthday in his house due to pandemic directives, although according to him, reaching this milestone comes with quite a bit of liberty.

“Do what you like to do, and that’s it,” said Riepel, chuckling, “and healthy eating.”

Riepel, who was born in New Jersey, is the last survivor of six children. In 1942 he was drafted into the Army Air Corps right after World War II began. He said three of his brothers served in the same war along side him. Discharged from the service in 1946, Riepel said he’s done many different things in his life, to keep from having idle hands. He went to work for Kraft Foods, preparing many of the products they continue to sell today. He worked there for 37 years, doing a number of different jobs for the company at their plant.

“First I was a cook,” said Riepel, “then I became a spice man. After that I was a set up man for the caramel department, making initial batches and setting them up for the crew to come in, in the morning.”

Riepel and his wife, Lydia, had three children. Lydia, Wilbur Ronald Jr. and Denise. Riepel’s wife Lydia, who was also born in 1920, was the last of her 12 siblings to pass away in 2016. They would have celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary this year. Riepel said the secret to a long happy marriage is a joyful atmosphere and leaving when you’re angry.

A happy birthday sign for Wilbur “Pop” Riepel. PAULETTE LEBLANC

“Get along with one another,” said Riepel. “When you have a little argument, walk out of the house, walk around the block then calm down and go back in.”

Although many people may look back and wonder about the road not taken, Riepel said he’s very happy with what he’s done in his life with no regrets.

He said when he was in the military, there wasn’t really time to enjoy his first time overseas in Europe, as there was a war going on, but like many times in his life, he knew what was expected of him and just did it.