Eleanor  Pepler
Eleanor Pepler

January 9, 1926 - November 18, 2017
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In the fall of 1945, Eleanor Louise Nittler stepped off the train from Geneva Nebraska at Union Station in Denver. She arrived ready to begin her new city life. Eleanor strode with a single suitcase to her boarding house at 9th and Grant with, to quote her, “the world on a string.” Eleanor passed away on November 18, 2017 from heart complications after a brief hospital stay at Porters. Her death is grieved by her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and large extended family, among them the sizeable population of Nebraskans who relocated to Denver following her early lead.

Eleanor was born on January 9, 1926 to Frank and Rose Nittler of Shickley, Nebraska. She was delivered in the Nittler family home on the acreage that Frank had worked with his father and, in his father’s passing, with his family. Eleanor was the sixth of what grew to be the thirteen-sibling Nittler family raised by Frank and Rose on the farm and, following loss of the farm in the depression and dust bowl, “in town” in Geneva. Eleanor’s childhood was guided by her parents’ deep Catholic faith and by Frank Nittler’s staunch belief in the value of education. Eleanor attended grade school in a one room school near to the farm, where she often joked (?) that she was first in her class of three. She completed her formal education as a member of the Geneva High School Class of 1943, but throughout her life maintained a mind open to new ideas and a keen intellectual curiosity.

When Denver native Jack Pepler returned to town from Navy service, he met Eleanor on a double date. There may have been a friend of his on the date and one of her friends from the boarding house along as well, but worldly and confident city girl Eleanor dazzled Jack. The two were married on October 4, 1947 at the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Denver.

Eleanor and Jack welcomed daughters Eleanor Louise and Linda Suzanne to their apartment home in 1948 and 1949, respectively. Eleanor had often walked by the apartment building that ultimately became her home on her way to her Grant Street boarding house. The building was managed by Jack’s grandmother Lula, and became the transitional address of choice for family members on the move.

In December 1949, Jack and Eleanor moved to the home on Shoshone Street in Denver where Eleanor remained until the last three days of her final illness. Son James Frederick arrived in March of 1951, with son Frank Thomas following in December 1955.

When the family took up water skiing in 1959, Eleanor became the crew captain, team tailor and chef. The six boating Peplers wore matching shirts in a nautical style that Eleanor sewed as the boat was nearing its maiden voyage. The kids also wore matching red sweatshirts to try to give her some hope of keeping track of them. Eleanor always remembered that bachelor boat co-owner Gerry Nittler would arrive at the Shoshone Street house ready to go on Saturday mornings, impatient that the Peplers were not yet in line and ready for launch. She wondered aloud whether Gerry may have come to understand her challenge better a few years later, when he was in the same boat (so to speak) rounding up four of his own. When the Finnegan family took over Gerry’s ownership in the “mahogany wonder” that Jack and Gerry built, Eleanor worked with sister LeAnne to manage the resulting joyful chaos.

Like the rest of her family, Eleanor was a water skier. All of her children had the pleasure of seeing their mother smiling happily in the wake of the boat atop the PLAID fiberglass slalom ski that became the choice of generations of Pepler and Finnegan females. On the best of days, with the smoothest of water and the brightest of suns, Eleanor might come to a graceful landing on the beach and accept a beer to celebrate her ride, her family, and her life. The scene was a pleasure to witness but like a comet passed only every third or fourth year.

When daughters Amy Marie and Carolyn Rose were born in 1963 and 1967, the family ultimately evolved from tents to a camper. On the camper’s debut voyage to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, all eight Peplers bedded down in their new tiny house. Admittedly, Carrie was small enough to fit in the sink and Amy was short enough to sleep on the floor, but they were all in there. Ellie’s then-boyfriend Augie joined the Peplers and spent a few nights in the cab of the truck on that trip. Eleanor likely had a say in that arrangement. The boating trips continued at more and more distant lakes and reservoirs under Eleanor’s soft but certain direction. The Flaming Gorge Reservoir became a Pepler family favorite, the Nittlers went on to colonize Pinedale in Wyoming for years, but the families continued to cross paths. Eleanor loved vacations with the extended families and savored all of them, including even the trip where she mustered all her strength to kill a rattlesnake by crushing it with a rock. Admittedly the rock and snake have become bigger over time, but there is no doubt that Eleanor was always a fierce defender of her children, her grandchildren, her great grandchildren and Jack.

In the mid 70s, Eleanor and Jack bought property in Grand County and their ski trips became less nomadic. The family settled in as Lake Granby regulars with Eleanor cooking and baking on a wood-fired stove in their cabin. Eleanor’s legendary dinner rolls, baked from her mother’s potato water recipe, were baked in the regular oven, but biscuits survived the transition back to their wood stove roots. Both were eagerly consumed by anyone lucky enough to be seated around her table or tables. Eleanor welcomed family, friends and assorted hangers on with grace.

Eleanor celebrated her role as a homemaker. She was always a great cook and baker. Her fried chicken and potato salad were boating staples, often served with a sprinkling of sand to her great dismay. Home baked cookies and cakes were also camping treats, just as they were standards in the children’s lunches. The family can never talk about baking without mention of Eleanor’s cherry pies. Two small trees in the back yard yielded a harvest that provided family and friends with a pie a day at peak season. On an off day, Eleanor might substitute a cobbler. The pies were legendary, the cobblers delicious and the Pepler family extraordinarily spoiled by her talent. Eleanor also had a very green thumb. A castoff schefflera plant left when Frank moved to San Francisco in 1978, filled most of the family room by the 2000s. Being seated on the “jungle side” of the table adjacent to, or in the canopy of, the plant became a favored seat for those wanting a place to take a rest from the bustle. The Christmas cactus that Eleanor cherished as a cutting from her mother’s plant blooms today. Eleanor could also make anything out of anything on her sewing machine. Ellie’s and Linda’s matching coats for the 1950 season were cut and sewn from Jack’s Navy blues. Frank proudly wore a “big bad wolf” costume to the Saint Rose Halloween parade that Eleanor had pieced together from cotton shag rugs that had earlier graced the family’s living room. Eleanor and the children all wore her work in the 50s and 60s. She also created bridesmaid dresses for the many Saint Rose weddings of girls from the Saint Rose of Lima Girl Scout troupe that Ellie and Linda were in and Eleanor had the chance to lead. Amy and Carrie often wore coordinated outfits she made for those occasions as well. Eleanor was active in the Girl Scout troupe for years, and the friendships she, Ellie and Linda and the family developed there continue today. At every one of the “Girl Scout weddings,” Eleanor and Jack cut an elegant rug. Eleanor was a beautiful dance partner for Jack, and they continued their love of dancing on cruises and at other events late into their lives.

Eleanor remained involved at Saint Rose of Lima Church and at Saint Rose of Lima School. All six of her children were students at the school but she stayed involved even after they had moved along. Eleanor’s volunteer work at Saint Rose changed with time as the Church changed and progressed. She began volunteering as a member of the Holy Name Society and Altar and Rosary Society, washing and pressing altar linens and vestments. As the Church became more open to women participating in ministry, Eleanor was proud to serve as a communion minister. She also had a recurring role as Mrs. Claus at the Christmas Eve mass at Saint Rose. In a later reprise of her career days, Eleanor went to work at Saint Rose of Lima School as school secretary. By doing so, she became a confidante and willing ear for any child or faculty member with a secret, problem, source of happiness or cause for pain. Through her work at the school, Eleanor reached and reared a whole new era of Saint Rose of Lima School students.

After Jack’s retirement in 1983, Eleanor and Jack traveled extensively on their own and with family. Whether by air, auto or cruise ship, Eleanor always took up the challenge, often as navigator to Jack’s pilot. They equally welcomed the sun of Maui, the sun of Provence and the Caribbean, and the music filled nights of New Orleans. As a staunch Catholic, Eleanor’s trip to Rome and the Vatican with her brothers and sisters was a highlight. Anyone who had the good fortune to hear Eleanor’s travel descriptions was fortunate indeed. The tellings and re-tellings often demonstrated Eleanor’s astonishing and encyclopedic command of the Nittler and Pepler family trees and forests. She could recall and recite all the aunties and uncles. She would then tie in all the cousins. For the metaphoric “bonus round”, she would conclude with all of the children and grandchildren of all of her brothers and sisters, together with various related spouses and even in-law family members. She was kind enough to act as if she was only reminding her children of the many facts and connections they may not have committed completely to memory. Linda and Carrie are likely heirs to the joyful burden of her oral legacy mental database.

Eleanor was predeceased by Jack in September of 2016. Unlike Eleanor’s brief hospitalization before death, Jack succumbed to a difficult death from Parkinson’s disease over several years. Eleanor remained Jack’s devoted wife and caretaker at the Shoshone Street address through his final illness. Eleanor managed the constantly changing pool of children, grandchildren and professional assistants to provide Jack with the care that he needed and she insisted. She maintained her and Jack’s dignity throughout.

Eleanor was a great woman of uncanny grace, elegance and nobility. Surviving children Ellie, Linda, Jim, Frank, Amy and Carrie mourn Eleanor’s passing and will miss her every day. They will be consoled by their certain knowledge that Eleanor’s legacy will be treasured by all those whose lives she touched.

Recitation of the Rosary Wed., 11/29, 7:00PM , Funeral Mass Thurs., 11/30, 11:00AM , St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 355 S. Navajo St., Denver. Interment to follow at Ft. Logan National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the American Heart Association at https://donatenow.heart.org/

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Recitation of the Rosary
St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church
355 South Navajo St.
Denver, CO US
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
7:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Funeral Mass
St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church
355 South Navajo St.
Denver, CO US
Thursday, November 30, 2017
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM