Joe Reppert (Baltimore Sun )
Joseph Lee "Spanky" Reppert, a highly regarded former lacrosse official who founded two leagues, died Wednesday of a stroke at Bethany House Hospice in Auburn, Ala.
The former longtime resident of Tally Ho Road in Lutherville was 66.
The son of a Chessie System executive secretary and a homemaker, he was born in Baltimore and raised in a home at Northern Parkway and the Alameda.
Mr. Reppert was a child when he acquired the nickname of "Spanky" because he bore a strong resemblance to the short, pudgy actor Spanky McFarland from "The Little Rascals." The nickname remained with him for the rest of his life.
As a child, he had suffered from polio, which returned later.
He played some lacrosse during his years at City College, from which he graduated in 1965. He attended Loyola College.
Mr. Reppert spent most of his professional life in executive placement and retired because of failing health in 2002 from Sudina Search LLC, an executive and professional search firm. He then worked part time as a driver for Radebaugh Florist & Greenhouses and Towson Sedan Service.
For 35 years, Mr. Reppert was able to indulge his passion for lacrosse as a high school and college official, and helped establish what became became the Loch Raven Lacrosse League and Fastbreak Lax Inc.
"We started playing lacrosse for the Govans Optimist Club when we were 12. We played together until he went to City and I went to Poly," said Eugene L. "Gene" Miles III, a Towson attorney.
Both men later became referees with the Southern Lacrosse Officials Association.
"We reffed from 1970 to 2004 together," said Mr. Miles. "Joe had a great sense of humor on the field and had the ability to control the game. And he did this with humor and quips. He believed that lacrosse was a gentlemanly game and should be played by gentlemen. And he wanted them to have a sense of pride when they played it."
Mr. Reppert refereed games for Fastbreak Lax. Inc. from 1995 to 2004, and continued assigning officials for its games from 1995 to 2008.
John M. Sheehan is also a member of the Southern Lacrosse Officials Association who officiated at games and now assigns officials to them.
"Spanky worked with a lot of young guys and combined them with the vets. He showed them the ropes and gave them lots of advice, criticism and encouragement, and he was always funny," said Mr. Sheehan.
"He also had a way with coaches and was fun to work with. He just loved working high school and college games," he said. "He loved the game, and he was a character in a good way."
Mr. Reppert was known for his irrepressible sense of humor, quick wit and larger-than-life personality.
"I've known Joe for years, and he was one fun-loving guy, and he was the most fun-loving ref I've ever known. He also left his mark on lacrosse," said Bill Tanton, former longtime sports editor of The Evening Sun. "He was very popular and people always enjoyed being around him. He wanted them to have fun."
Mr. Reppert passed on his love of the game to his two sons, Joseph L. "J.L." Reppert III of Alexandria, Va., who played for Navy, and Brad Reppert of San Clemente, Calif., who played at Towson University.
Mr. Tanton recalled attending a Navy game during Mr. Reppert's son's senior year.
"We were sitting together in the stands when a voice on the public address system asked families to join their sons on the field. Joe said, 'Let's go,' and I said, 'I'm not family.' He said, 'Yes, you are,' and we stood on the field together honoring J.L. That's the way Joe was."
Chad Roeder, owner of Fastbreak Lax Inc., was a longtime friend and lacrosse associate.
"I never knew a team that didn't like Joe. He had a great phrase, 'You have to sell the call.' He didn't catch everything on the field, but he had a very good eye," said Mr. Roeder.
"And he liked working with the young kids. During a break, he'd explain to them what they did wrong. He liked counseling them. He was always doing this," he said.
Mr. Reppert carried his sheer joy and interest in people to other organizations in which he was active. He was a member of the Paint and Powder Club and sang in many of their annual productions.
He had been president of the Loyola High School Fathers' Club and was a member of the Don Doggers, where he was a familiar presence wielding a spatula over a charcoal fire during home football games.
After club meetings, he enjoyed repairing to the old Johnny Unitas' Golden Arm restaurant in Rodgers Forge with a few members, where he liked to relax and laugh over a couple of beers or a glass of bourbon.
An expert trumpet player, Mr. Reppert played at the annual Red Cross Day of Remembrance in Baltimore.
At Christmas, he always carried his trumpet to social events. Dressed in tails, which he wore over corduroy pants embroidered with pheasants, ducks or other oddments, he would announce his arrival with a jaunty fanfare or melodic carol.
He was the nephew of the late Ralph Reppert, the longtime Sunday Sun Magazine staff writer, who died in 1977.
A snappy dresser, Mr. Reppert's face was framed by an ever-present pair of horned-rimmed glasses. He also loved driving his blue Dodge convertible with the top down, radio turned up, while puffing and waving a large cigar.
He enjoyed playing golf, tennis and squash, and had been a member of Hunt Valley Golf Club.
He was an active member of Grace United Methodist Church and the Towson Elks until moving to Auburn in 2007, where he joined the First Presbyterian Church.
"Joe made life magical wherever he went," said his wife of 36 years, the former Jan Autrey.
Services were held Monday at Grace United Methodist Church.
In addition to his wife and sons, Mr. Reppert is survived by a daughter, Sarah Reppert of Auburn; and his mother, Ann Reppert of Auburn.