Decorated retired U.S. Army colonel remembered as Centerville’s ‘Mr. Americana’



CENTERVILLE – A retired U.S. Army officer is being remembered for his founding of Centerville’s largest festival - earning him the moniker “Mr. Americana” – and his time as a community leader.

Lt. Col. Jim Reppert, a former Centerville City Councilman, died Monday night at age 89, said Steve Wenstrup, a committee member for the Americana Festival, which the Army veteran helped found nearly five decades ago.

Reppert was a Bronze Star recipient, serving in the Army from 1949-70, and three years later worked to start the annual festival, the Independence Day event that draws about 100,000, Wenstrup said.

“When Jim started it was just a sidewalk sale,” he said of the event for which a section of Ohio 48 closes. “He was a great guy and an incredible mentor to many people.”

Reppert was a “very organized individual” involved in numerous community groups and activities, he said.

The city, in a released statement, said Reppert “dedicated himself to our community and nation in so many ways over many decades.”

Reppert was commissioned by the Army in 1952 and served during both the Korean and Vietnam wars, Wenstrup said. Aside from the Bronze Star, he was also awarded a Joint Service Army Commendation Medal, he added.

After retiring from the military, Reppert was a founder of the Centerville-Washington Twp. Landmarks Foundation, president of the Centerville-Washington Twp. Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis Club, according to the city.

Reppert was also a driving force in transforming Benham’s Grove into a community gathering spot, Wenstrup said.

“That was a big project that he took forward - a property owned by a family and converting it into an event space and a park,” Wenstrup added.

In 1991, Reppert was a recipient of the Centerville Mayor’s Award and he served as assistant to the city manager from 1992-1993, city records show. He was later elected to city council, serving from 1996-99, according to the city.

“All who knew and worked with Jim Reppert recognize that he and his efforts made this a better community for all of us,” Centerville Mayor Brooks Compton said in a statement released by the city.

Arrangements are pending, Wenstrup said, and an event for Reppert may be held in the spring.

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