Richard Earl Nepple, age 98, died in Flagstaff early Saturday evening February 23, 2019.
A good man, who loved and cared for his family, he believed in God and eventually being with loved ones in the afterlife. He was born January 29, 1921, in Salt Lake City UT, to Earl William and Marie (Hill) Nepple growing up in the mining towns of Bingham Canyon, Utah, and Morenci, Arizona.
After beginning higher education in Tucson he enlisted in 1942. On August 1, 1943 he married Charlotte Louise Clement, living in Morenci, AZ and, originally from Van Houten (now a ghost town), Las Vegas, and Raton, New Mexico.
After serving in WWII with the U.S. Army Air Corp in India, following honorable discharge in 1946, he continued at the University of Arizona earning his degree in mechanical engineering.
First working for Allis Chalmers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he became a founding member of the Muskego Lions Club, he then worked for Sandia Corporation (Albuquerque) in atomic weapons development. In 1956 he and family embarked on a Grace line passenger freighter from New York through the Panama Canal to Valparaiso, Chile, continuing by rail to Sewell, Chile. Often called the “City of Stairs”, being on the side of a mountain at 7,220 feet in the Andes, Sewell is the location of Il Teniente, considered the largest underground copper mine in the world. The family lived in the town for three years while he worked for U.S. Braden Copper Company which operated the mine. Greatly increasing production of the mine, then returning to work with Sandia Corporation in Livermore, CA. until 1962, he worked briefly at a southern Peru open pit copper mine.
In 1963 he accepted the position as representative for Allis Chalmers mining and heavy equipment to 14 countries in Africa, moving with family to Johannesburg, South Africa. He traveled Africa extensively for three years, returning in 1966 to live in Hales Corners, WI, and continuing with the company for eight more years.
Courageously deciding to operate his own business, in 1973 he purchased a motel on Route 66 in Winslow, AZ. which he and Charlotte owned until 1979. Moving to Flagstaff he continued in business operating University Service Station and U-Haul until retiring in the 1980s.
A gifted engineer and optimist, even with severe vision loss later in life, he believed many of life’s problems could be solved. Living in the small mountain mining town in Chile in the 1950’s, he designed and built a radio tower for his amateur radio equipment to enable family and friends to speak directly with relatives in the United States. In Livermore, CA, he flew two small planes often maintaining them himself. He designed and patented a synchro-vane vertical axis wind (and wave) powered generator. Always willing to help, he used his engineering abilities for many auto and other projects for family and friends. Years ago he engineered the repair of a difficult wobbling handrail at a son’s home. Still like a rock, the handrail is a continuing reminder of his love and caring.
A generous and highly intelligent member of the Greatest Generation, he is greatly missed. He lived alone in the Country Club area of Flagstaff for many years after being predeceased by his beloved spouse Charlotte in 2000 then his sister Lurene Roser and her two sons (his nephews) Wally and Rick Wright. Surviving are son Earl (Linda); son Fred (Margaret Davis) of Madison, WI, and their two sons (his grandsons) Alexander Nepple and Samuel Nepple; daughter Peggy (Tom) Gritzmacher of Boise, ID; grandchildren: Doug Gritzmacher; Tessa Gritzmacher (Donovan Isaak); Charlie Gritzmacher (Chelsie); five great grandchildren; step granddaughters (Earl/Linda): Tracy (Rogelio) Quintanar; Shelly (Brooks) Good; Amy Schuster-Hagan (Patrick Hagan) and step great grandchildren.
The family would like to thank neighbors and friends especially Sarah and Merion for their caring friendship. Memorial Service and interment is planned at the columbarium of Citizens Cemetery, Veteran’s Section in Flagstaff at 1 PM Friday May 17.
Memories and condolences can be shared with family directly or online at www.norvelowensmortuary.com