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Many mourn unexpected loss of Kepperley

If there were a musical or theatrical production made of John Kepperley’s friends and admirers, the cast would have to be in the thousands. As word spread of Kepperley’s death in his sleep at home from apparent heart-related issues Sunday morning, people reached out not only to his family and friends, but to each other.

John Kepperley at the banquet where he was named North Olmsted Community Council Citizen of the Year in 2007. (West Life photo by Larry Bennet)

John Kepperley at the banquet where he was named North Olmsted Community Council Citizen of the Year in 2007. (West Life photo by Larry Bennet)

“It’s source of comfort to us that John was so well-liked by people,” his wife Wilma said Monday. “We appreciate so many people letting us know. We’ve heard from a lot of people already, and the Facebook entries I’ve had a chance to read are very touching.”

Kepperley, 64, was a longtime band director at North Olmsted High School, but also was active in many community-related activities. He was frequently busy with a wide range of school and community music and theatrical productions, and was active in the Kiwanis and Key clubs. He was selected the 2007 North Olmsted Community Council Citizen of the Year.

A description from Council officials as to why he was selected cited the following.

“He has long been a champion of the cultural enrichment of North Olmsted, as evidenced by his work with the North Olmsted Cultural Arts Council and his current membership on the North Olmsted Cultural Activities Commission. He is also an active member of the Olmsted Historical Society,” council officials said in announcing Kepperley’s selection.

“He has been an extremely active member of Kiwanis since 1994. He has held nearly every club office, including president. He has delivered meals for Meals on Wheels, assisted in safety fairs for local children, volunteered at North Olmsted’s annual Homecoming and Children’s games, reviewed and raised money for high school scholarships, organized field trips for handicapped students, volunteered at Special Horizons and Kiwanis Park, assisted with All Scout’s Day, participated in Adopt-a-Highway and organized Kiwanis’ 75th Anniversary celebration at Frostville Museum. He is always the first one there and the last one to leave when he commits to a project.”

Council also cited his strong support of children and students, noting his work with the high school Key Club, Middle School Builder’s Club and elementary school K Kids. They also noted his chaperoning and assisting a wide variety of events, including Winter Formal, the annual Key Club Convention, Walk to Cure Juvenile Diabetes, blood drives, picnics, the North Olmsted Band and Orchestra Boosters plus volunteering to help middle and high school students with annual ensemble and solo contests as well providing free music lessons.

Family and friends said being involved in so many activities came naturally to Kepperley.

“He loved being busy and working on the different projects,” Wilma said.

“He was the closest thing I knew to a rock star,” his son Bryan said.

Bryan recalled an event in the last month when he was having problems with his phone.

“I called the service out in California and the first person I spoke to asked ‘are you related to John Kepperley?’ Then someone else in the room asked that I please tell him hello.’ It seems that everyone knew him.”

Other people in the community lauded Kepperley for his many good works and deeds.

“We’re still in shock, our family all loved John,” said North Olmsted Ward 3 City Councilman Paul Schumann who, with his wife, was supposed to eat with the Kepperleys Sunday.

“He worked with three of our children on band and other projects,” Schumann said. “My son Eric was one of his last drum majors while he was band director and he was a major reason Eric was a drum major and stayed active in music.”

Schumann who also is current head of the Olmsted Historical Society, said Kepperley was always ready to lend a hand.

“We’ve worked on many projects together through the years,” Schumann said. “Our last conversation, we were talking about how to help some youngsters who were in need. That was just typical of John.”

North Olmsted School superintendent Cheryl Dubsky noted she has worked with Kepperley on a wide range of projects in the close to to 20 years she has known him.

“I’m having a hard time processing it because he was always there when you needed him for something,” Dubsky said. “Even after his retirement, he remained active in school activities and was busy with staff and students.

Dubsky said the school set time aside for staff and students to talk to district counselors and deal with the loss. She anticipated the district doing something to honor Kepperley.

School Spokeswoman Vera Brewer also worked with Kepperley on many different projects through the years.

“He touched every part of the community,” she said. “I think he was more busy in retirement than ever.

Former West Life staffer and current business journalist Ben Saylor recalled his years in high school marching band playing at first cornet, and then tuba with Kepperley at the helm.

“When I think of marching band and all the that went into it, I think of him,” Saylor said. “He was always busy helping us and making it better. He did a lot for many people.”

Saylor who remains active as an actor in community theater, also recalled Kepperley being active in many productions.



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