During the month of June, the 547th flag to fly atop the Old Glory Tower in the North End honors the memory of John L. Lepire, Raymond J. Lepire, and Norman R. Lepire, all veterans of World War II. Their brother, Roland, who is also a veteran of WWII resides in West Barnstable and Florida.
Cpt. John Lepire was born on Jan. 9, 1921 and was a fighter pilot and helicopter pilot for the USMC, serving in both WWII and the Korean War. He began his active duty service on May 29, 1942 and earned his “Wings of Gold” following the completion of the flight training course at the Naval Air Training Center in Pensacola, Florida, where he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.
John was shot down twice during his distinguished flying career. According to a Standard-Times article, “On Feb. 24, 1945, a Japanese anti-aircraft fire brought down a Corsair fighter plane piloted by 2nd Lieutenant John Lepire, USMC, somewhere in the Pacific.” On May 22, 1945 John was “awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.” He “flew 41 fighter-bombers strikes against the Japanese-held Western Caroline Islands.” According to the article, Lepire had been overseas for 11 months.
Then, on Sept. 9, 1950, the Standard-Times headline read, “Lieutenant back in action in Korea sky.” After being commissioned in the Marine Corp Reserves in 1943, and serving as a member of the Werewolf fighter squadron, he began flying helicopters during the Korean War. According to the newspaper article, “Flying for the first time in a helicopter, (Lepire) aided in picking up a British pilot who was forced to crash-land behind enemy lines.”
Captain Lepire, throughout his distinguished flying career, earned the following medals: the Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal.
He settled in California after the war, then moved to Twin Falls, Idaho to be near his daughter Gayle Kemp, after his wife, Marian Ruth Lepire, passed away. Cpt. John Lepire passed away on March 15, 2013.
Norman Lepire, born on Sept. 6, 1928 served in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Norman, who resided in Lakeville, had 30 years of experience as a fisherman, and was the former owner of the scalpers Ruth Lea and Sea Trek. He was also known as a promising amateur boxer in his youth.
Lepire was “lost at sea” during a fishing trip aboard the Navigator, where he served as the ship's skipper. According to a Standard-Times article, “The Navigator left New Bedford on the afternoon of Nov. 30 and is believed to have planned to dredge for scallops in the channel west of Nantucket or further out to sea on scallop grounds on Georges Bank.”
There were 13 crew members aboard the Navigator. “The crew aboard the vessel was an experience one," said owner Myron Marder, as quoted in an Standard-Times article. Lepire had been the Navigator’s skipper on its last seven or eight trips, according to the newspaper.
Norman Lepire’s name is listed on a plaque at the Seamen’s Bethel in New Bedford, along with his other crew members.
Lepire was an early advocate for providing scuba diving equipment and training for area boat owners. He himself freed a large net that was entangled when aboard the ship Ruth Lea, fishing about 130 miles east of Pollock Rip Lightship when the ship picked up an enormous net and it was sucked into the wheel.
He was married to Thelma (McCabe) of New Bedford.
Raymond Lepire was born on Jan. 22, 1923 and served in the US Navy as a gunner on a PBY aircraft patrolling along the east coast during WWII.
He was an Aviation Machinist Mate 3rd Class, in charge of maintaining and repairing aircraft engines. He was a graduate of the Navy Aviation School.
After being discharged from the military, he studied business administration in Modesto, California and did his graduate work at the University of California.
Raymond Lepire was elected the “mayor of the suburban Los Angeles city of Pomona, on April 17 and was sworn into office April 23,” in 1973. According to a Standard-Times article, Lepire came back to New Bedford after a 27 year absence to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Boston. Besides serving as Pomona’s part-time mayor, he also served as the purchasing agent for the Pomona Valley Hospital. According to the newspaper, “He lived in Pomona for nearly 17 years and served on various municipal boards and with private agencies.”
Lepire passed away on October 15, 2010 while residing in Florence, Oregon. He was married to his wife Dorothy and they had two children: Robert “Randy” Lepire of Florence, OR and Jeanette “Ginger” Eckhard of Southern California.
Roland Lepire is the only living Lepire brother. Roland served in the U.S. Navy, where he rebuilt aircraft engines. He served from Dec. 30, 1942 to April 1, 1946, stationed in Florida and then in Guam. He worked for New England Telephone for 36 years. He currently resides in West Barnstable and Florida. He was married to Mary Lorraine Fournier, who is now deceased. They had three children: a daughter, Judith Wilkinson of Tiverton, Rhode Island; and two sons: Stephen Lepire of Vero Beach, California and Mark Lepire of West Barnstable.
The late Joseph Theodore, a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient began the practice of flying veterans’ flags above the Old Glory Tower 46 years ago.
Linda Ferreira, researches the life histories of area veterans. Shaun Neary, former Marine, raises the memorial flags on the veterans' behalf. American flags are provided by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 499, New Bedford. Those who would like to honor a veteran by flying a flag at Old Glory Tower can contact Ferreira email@example.com.