David Reppart had huge hands, a grip that could choke a bull, but an extremely gentle touch. He was known for his strength but also his gentleness and compassion.
Nellie Reppart was a woman of great spiritual fervor. A prayer warrior. A Spirit-filled teacher. She had a gift for making others feel valued.
He was a person you didn’t want to let down. She was a person you just wanted to be with.
Together, this couple spent more than two decades loving and blessing the students of York College.
To honor their years of joyful sacrifice, York College will announce the first recipient of the David and Nellie Reppart Award for Service at All College Banquet on April 30. Previously known as the Second Miler award, this recognition will honor a staff member or non-full time faculty member who routinely goes above and beyond in their service to the YC community.
Big Tent Transformation
While it was likely their zeal for the Lord that initially drew the couple together, spiritual fireworks started to explode for David and Nellie shortly after their wedding in 1941.
David was raised a Quaker. Nellie grew up in the Christian church. The week after they married, David went to a gospel meeting. The preacher said so many things he disagreed with, David dove into the Word like never before so that he could prove that man wrong.
Instead, he decided the preacher was telling the truth. Convicted, David and Nellie were both baptized a few days later.
“Dad and Mother went to church ALL the time,” says son Thomas, the eldest of five children. Every time the doors were open, they were there to worship and learn. Eventually, a large number of family members came to believe and be baptized due to David and Nellie’s influence.
The Repparts were interested in true religion, not mere church attendance, says Thomas. David and Nellie would bring food from their farm to those in need. They visited the sick, the elderly, the home bound, the bedridden. They would pray with them, sing with them, and just visit.
The Repparts were known for their hospitality, says Thomas, and their farm was often the hub for their extended family and the church.
Whenever a missionary was in the area looking for support, the Repparts were sure to host. The missionary zeal was catching—several of the Reppart children eventually went into full time ministry, missions or other service oriented professions.
David was a strong, powerfully built man, trained as a farmer and as a mechanic. Though he was not a college-educated theologian, his deep love for the Gospel and for people were all the qualification he needed to start preaching.
The elders of the church in Cadiz, Ohio asked David and four other young men to become rotating preachers. After ten years, one of the churches where David regularly preached asked him to be their “located preacher.” So, the Repparts sold the farm and moved to town. In the ensuing years, their efforts, blessed by the Lord, grew the congregation in Newcomerstown, Ohio from 60 to more than 200 people.
From ministry to maintenance
After 18 years in full time ministry in Ohio, Minnesota, and Michigan, David decided God was calling him to do something different, but he didn’t know what.
At that time, three of their children had attended York College: Kenneth ’67, Lynda ’68, and Jim ’72. Their youngest, Kathy, was approaching college age.
In 1973 they moved to York, with no plan for employment but with a certainty that God would sort out the details.
Nellie took a job running the snack bar at the college and David joined the maintenance crew. These were not glamorous jobs, but the Repparts didn’t care. They were ready to serve in whatever capacity the Lord provided. David also began preaching at the Nelson Church of Christ, a ministry he continued for 17 years.
Their influence on campus grew as they ministered to the students. Their home was always open and many students stopped by to partake of the home cooking, the wisdom and advice, and the fun.
Nellie taught women’s Bible classes and workshops. David became an elder at East Hill Church of Christ.
Eventually, David was asked to change his role completely and become the dean of men, then later, dean of students. Nellie was asked to take charge of the work-study program, then to serve as dean of women.
David wanted to refuse the initial promotion because he didn’t feel qualified. He didn’t have a college degree—how could he be a campus administrator? Despite his misgivings, he said yes, and students were blessed.
Strength and Compassion
David and Nellie liked to have fun with the students, says Thomas. David would catch people doing pranks, such as putting a Volkswagen on the landing at the top of the steps in front of McGehee, and he would laugh and look the other way. “He let them have their fun, but made them clean up afterwards,” said Thomas.
“Even kids he disciplined loved him because they knew he always acted out of love and concern for their well being,” says daughter Kathy Hameister ‘76.
Gail Miller, associate professor of biology, recalled an incident that exemplified the Repparts’ ministry at YC. A student had stolen a wallet and gotten in trouble with the law. After helping her through the legal ramifications of her action, David had to dismiss her from school.
However, when he discovered she had no way to get back home, he bought her bus ticket back to Chicago out of his own pocket. “That was just like him,” said Miller.
What made Nellie stand out was the way that she noticed the little things, says Deena (Smith) Tandy ‘65. She was thoughtful, often creating personalized gifts or poems for those in need of encouragement.
Nellie made a special effort to connect with international students. She would research their home countries and do what she could to make them feel more comfortable.
“She was aware of things,” says Deena. “She paid attention to people and what was going on in their lives. The way she paid attention meant that she cared about you.”
When they retired from their work at York College in 1986, they didn’t retire from their ministry. York remained their home, but they spent much of their time traveling to speak at gospel meetings, elder retreats, and women’s workshops. They spent several months working with the ministry of son and daughter-in-law Jim and Laura (Loutzenhiser) ‘72 in Cameroon and Kenya.
In 1996 they celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary in York, surrounded by loved ones and the community they helped build. In 1997 Nellie passed away. David followed her home the next year.
“Their years at York College working with students were some of the happiest of their lives,” said Thomas. “They really had fun.”
“They were wonderful, caring people. They touched so many lives,” says Kathy. “Their whole married life together was dedicated to the Lord.”
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