Even as Alzheimer’s eclipsed the bright spectrum of Myrtle’s mind, the insidious invader did nothing to dim her outlook on Life. After her legendary powers of speech had betrayed her, it did not quiet Myrtle’s impulse to reach out and touch the world around her. Some say the disease strips away the social cosmetics that mask our true natures; but in Myrtle’s case it revealed the same woman underneath — a benevolent heart amid an eternal flow of smiles and kisses. To some, her speech seemed to disintegrate into gibberish, but to the Lord and to those who loved Myrtle, it was a sacred dialect to be heeded and respected. If one hung in there, as her nephew, Glenn, was wont to do, one might be rewarded with an occasional impish grin and her lifelong greeting to him: “Hi, Cutie!” To those who skim over our loved ones’ eccentric utterances in their final flickering years, Myrtle reminds us to simply listen with our hearts.

If we had deciphered the code, surely we would have heard Myrtle place a bet last Sunday on the Kentucky Derby. If her sister, Julie, were alive, she would remind us their Daddy, Louis had died at the Arlington Racetrack with a winning ticket in his hand. Myrtle and Julie (Moo and Ju were the childhood nicknames that died with them) were dealt good cards and bad — in life as around the card tables at the fire station in Pell Lake on Thursdays, Como on Fridays, and at Town Hall on Wednesdays. But the Reppert sisters played to improve their odds, exercising grace under adversity, and making the best of every hand they were dealt. As Julie’s eyes failed her, Myrtle, the real card shark in the family, would fold her own superior hand and help make sense of Julie’s less promising assets. In the countless family penny ante games played on rickety folding tables, with Myrtle’s steadfast friend, Elaine, at her side, there was a great deal of spirited disagreement, but nobody ever left a nickel richer or poorer. Because those Depression girls, Moo and Ju, knew that regardless of the stakes, we are all in this together, and the point of winning a jackpot, after you fight like heck to get it, is to split it all around. Who was the sidekick in this lifelong duo, Myrtle or Julie? Hard to say now that they have both kicked the bucket. But until the end, the nurses at Lakeland where Myrtle received loving care, reported Myrtle crying out in the night: “Ju—lie! Juuuuuu!”

Myrtle fondly remembered her walks along Lake Michigan with a hiking club whose only requirement was that one bring “a can of something.” Over an open flame on the shore, every imaginable vegetable, and potted meat cascaded into the massive camp pot. And as her spoiled nephew recoiled in horror at the unappealing recipe, she replied: “You just don’t know what you missed!” Myrtle loved and delighted in the company of her niece and namesake, Carol Myrtle Young who showed up every Saturday morning at her aunt’s door for a day of mastering puzzles and outfoxing crosswords, with a break for breakfast at Debbie’s Family Restaurant in Delavan.

Myrtle’s childhood Chicago home was on Drake where her Polish mother, Agnes, presided with European precision. It was a short walk to Waller High where nobody’s job prospects were particularly auspicious in the class of 1936. But Myrtle made the most of a chance interview — “over 200 girls in line” — at Illinois Bell. The standard route for a young woman was definitely not to skirt marriage and children. But Myrtle took a call out of the blue towards a different kind of destiny. At the switchboard she plugged into a life independent of men’s expectations (although she lived with her beloved Daddy near Logan Square). The “Clear as a Bell” enunciation was part of her trademark decades later. But Bell executives discovered that Myrtle spoke with more than a clear voice. She spoke with intelligence, insight and with a talent for analysis and management. And as unlikely as it was in that intensely male world, Myrtle rose up the ladder until her early retirement at 55 when she held the highest post of any woman in that still powerful Chicago company. There were some regrets along the way (you can’t live to nearly a hundred without some wild cards in the deck) but among them was definitely not early retirement to her beloved Lake Geneva.

Myrtle could not catch a ball, swing a bat, a racket, or swim a lap. But if the Olympics gave out medals for being a great sport, Myrtle would have brought home the Gold. Her empathic nature was never more on display than when the chips were down and a friend, especially an underdog, needed a lift. She was a champ in the friendship competition. Some advised her against being overly sympathetic, but her reply lives on: “I’d rather be gullible than close-fisted.” Among other omissions on her resume for early 20th Century young ladies, Myrtle never learned to cook. Betty Crocker would have been aghast, but not Oscar Mayer. Cold cuts were Myrtle’s specialty, springing for two types of potato salad (German and American) on an indoor picnic spread. When the subject of her cooking prowess arose, she would point out, “But I know how to order!” And the echo of Myrtle’s voice still rings out after a thousand family gatherings: “Leave the dishes for me!”

If it had not been for an excruciating fall in her final days, leading to her demise on May 4, she would have greeted her hundredth birthday on August 20th reaching with both hands for the buttercream bouquet atop her cake. Myrtle Reppert never lost her appetite for Life.

In addition to her nephew, Myrtle leaves many close friends including her neighbor, Donald DeBaere. Visitation will be held at the Steinke-Lazarczyk Family Funeral Home (515 Center Street, Lake Geneva) on Tuesday May 14 from 12-1PM with funeral service at 1pm. Interment will be held at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago. Steinke-Lazarczyk Family Funeral Home is proudly serving the Reppert Family.