Former fair manager, now with dementia, makes his way back to the fair

By: Joe Nelson Email
By: Joe Nelson Email

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) - Thousands made their way to the fair, but it was a special day for one Eau Claire man, who took in the sights and flavors, bringing back old memories.

Young people stood in line for rides, and older ones for a drink or two, but for Jim Reppe, who lives at Azura Memory Care in Eau Claire, just being back on the fairgrounds brought a smile to his face.

“The Northern Wisconsin State Fair is a tradition for a lot of families, and Jim made that fair possible, it wouldn’t' be here today without Jim. For him to take part in it again is wonderful, it's exceptional,” Paula Gibson with Azura Memory Care said.

The 83-year-old was the fair manager in the '80s and '90s, lining up entertainment, hiring staff and running the beer garden.

“It was wonderful working with Jim, he was always so friendly, easy to work with, considerate and we got along very well,” former fair coworker Sally Kjorlien said.

But advancing in age, Jim retired from his post, as new memories weren't as sharp as they used to be.

“Jim is in his 80s and he has dementia, so the cognition is an issue, also has some physical limitations, so to think about him coming to the fair may seem unrealistic,” Gibson said.

“You can make dreams happen. It doesn't matter what the diagnosis is.”

After talking with Jim this year, the staff at his home, Azura Memory Care, teamed up with the fair staff, to bring Jim back the grounds that once kept him so busy.

“To tell you the truth, I felt lucky, that I could go and enjoy that,” Reppe said.

Along with his daughter Lorie Thompson, Jim came to shake hands with old friends and taste some treats on a ride to remember.

“It was wonderful to see him come in today, brought tears to my eyes,” Kjorlien said.

“Just to go back and walk down memory lane and see old faces and to go back into places they were is wonderful. A day like this is wonderful for me to see and for his friends to share with him,” Thompson said.

“It's a very enjoyable afternoon, no matter how you want to spend on it,” Reppe said.

He said he hopes to make it back to the fair next year.


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