Sterling “Bob” Bobby Sears

John Lewis Leppelman went home to the Lord on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, after a long and valiant battle with cancer. As he took his last breath at the VA Medical Center in Seattle, he was surrounded by his loving wife and three children. He was 71.

John was born in Visalia, Calif., on Aug. 3, 1948, to Lewis Leppelman and Virginia Leppelman. He spent his youth shooting and hunting coyotes in the San Joaquin Valley, and as a teenager attended Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia. John was a patriotic young man and a true “red-blooded American.” When seeing that the conflict in Vietnam escalated, John answered his country’s call and enlisted in the Army at the age of 17 with his parents’ consent. When his mother asked what he was going to do in the service, he proudly puffed out his chest and said “paratrooper.”

John was sworn into the service July 29, 1966, in Fresno, Calif. He did three tours in Vietnam. His first tour was with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and John was part of Operation Junction City where he, along with 844 paratroopers, conducted the only military jump of the Vietnam War and the largest since the Korean War. His second tour was with the 329th, 5th HBC (river boats). On John’s third tour, he joined the “all volunteer” elite Airborne Rangers and was in the 75th Regiment, 2nd Battalion Charlie Company. There he became a LRRP (long range reconnaissance patrol).

Known as “Lepp” by his comrades, John was a warrior. After his service in the Army from 1966 to 1970, he was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds inflicted by a grenade explosion, along with a Bronze Star with the “V” device, the Army Commendation Medal, the Air Medal, SVN Cross of Gallantry, the Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Parachute Wings and the Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Stars and one Silver Star. John saved the lives of several men in combat during his service. John published a book in 1991 about his experiences in Vietnam titled, “Blood On The Risers,” and it was listed on the New York Times’ best-seller list.

After Vietnam, John married his first wife, Linda, in 1973. They were married 21 years and had three children together. John and his family have lived in Paso Robles, Calif., Moscow, Coeur d’Alene Lake and Heredia, Costa Rica. John was a successful businessman, a realtor and owned his own real estate appraisal business for many years.

John loved being near water and was a master scuba diver. He also jumped out of aircraft for many years after the war and was an active member of the U.S. Parachute Association. John fiercely loved his two sons and daughter and shared his love of traveling with them with frequent trips to Hawaii, Mexico and Costa Rica because he loved the jungle. He enjoyed shooting guns, boating, snorkeling and diving. John was an avid reader throughout his life and especially with the Bible, which he read nightly.

John remarried in 2003 to Sandra Riechert. After their retirement, they became snowbirds, spending their winters in Yuma, Ariz., and summers at the lake in Coeur d’Alene. John enjoyed sitting in his shop with the bay doors open looking at the lake, having a drink and listening to talk radio. He loved it when his kids and grandchildren visited him, and he always reminded them how much he loved them. John Leppelman was a hero, and a unique and charismatic individual who made friends easily and captivated a room. He will be dearly missed by all those who knew him.

John is survived by his wife, Sandra Leppelman; his first wife, Linda Leppelman; his daughter, Cori Gonzales (44); sons Kep Leppelman (42) and Luke Leppelman (37); brothers Larry Leppelman and Bobby Leppelman; sister Tammy Fager; and all of his 10 grandchildren, Gabriel (23), Mariah (22), Jesse (17), Jaysen (13), Audrey (12), Angeline (16), Joshua (10), Sophia (10), Lucia (5) and Phoebe (3).

A funeral service will be held for John at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Freeze Church, with burial and military honors at Freeze Cemetery near Potlatch. A memorial reception will immediately follow. The reception will be held at Faith Church in Onaway, Idaho, at 401 3rd St.

Any donations in memory of John Leppelman can be made to: DAV-Disabled American Veterans, P.O. Box 14301, Cincinnati, OH 45250-0301, or to the Fisher House Foundation at 12300 Twinbrook Parkway, Suite 410, Rockville, MD 20852.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Short’s Funeral Chapel, Moscow, and online condolences may be sent to www.shortsfuneralchapel.com.

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