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Celebrating the life of

Dr. James Frank Repella

Passed away on April 12, 2024

Dr. James Frank Repella

Dr. James Frank Repella, aged 89, passed away peacefully on Friday, April 12, while holding the hand of his beloved wife, Jackie.

Jim was born on June 5, 1934, in Kingston, Pennsylvania to Frank and Mary Rzepiela. He spent his childhood in Duryea, Pennsylvania, excelling at school and sports while also earning 10 cents an hour working on the Cremard family’s farm. Jim’s father was a coal miner and his mother a seamstress. The family petitioned to change the spelling of their last name when the coal mining company continued to misspell Rzepiela and Frank could not cash his pay checks.

Upon high school graduation at 17, Jim surprised his family and himself when he declined Mr. Cremard’s offer to come on board as partner and, instead, enrolled at the Pennsylvania Hospital School of Nursing for Men in Philadelphia which offered full scholarships to increase the number of males in the profession. He quickly lost 20 pounds due to extreme homesickness but pressed on. After receiving special permission to take the board examination a year shy of the age-21 minimum, Jim’s healthcare career was interrupted by stateside US Army service during the Korean War.

Through the GI Bill, Jim no longer had educational financial restraints, and he subsequently gained a bachelor’s degree in education with a minor in nursing at Temple University. This was followed by a dual master’s degree in psychiatric nursing and nursing administration at the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in higher education at the University of Pittsburgh. These degrees were earned while working full time as an educator and administrator and growing his family.

A runner long before it was mainstream, Jim would jog in the evenings through his neighborhood streets not far from the psychiatric hospital where he worked. He laughed as his neighbors openly questioned if he was an administrator at the hospital or a patient.

In 1976, looking to relocate to Georgia, Jim accepted the position of head of the Department of Nursing at Armstrong State College. In 1978, when the College of Health Professions was established, he was named the founding Dean. Upon his retirement from Armstrong in 2001, Dr. Repella was the second-longest tenured dean in the nation serving one institution. Under his 23-year leadership, the College of Health Professions became the second largest such college in the University System of Georgia and grew from offering two associate degree programs and one bachelor of science program to a collective 17 programs offering associate, bachelor of science and master of science degrees. In recognition of his many achievements, the Savannah Chapter of the Alpha Eta National Honor Society was renamed in his honor.

As a parent, Jim was unlike other fathers of the 1970s and 80s. He grocery shopped, laid vitamins out for his children each morning – some they believed intended for livestock – and cooked many meals. With deep pride he used ingredients he touted as less expensive and far healthier. Such sundries included saltless ground peanuts, the more nutritious and almost costless alternative to child-friendly peanut butter, a mixture of powdered and skim milk, lower in fat and flavor, and when truly inspired, soybean burgers. There were exceptions. Jim was famous for the delicious pancakes he cooked on Saturdays but was also asked to leave his running clothes on the porch this same morning which made for uncomfortable eye diverting if one awakened too early. A former minor-league catcher while in nursing school, Jim coached little league baseball with incredible acumen and calm. A man with little hair, he pulled his youngest daughter’s hair into a ballet bun using his tiny black comb. He loved being outdoors in the temperate climate of the South and gardened, maintaining a compost. He ran through the Landings every morning in the same orange sweatsuit sometimes trailed by a dachshund or two, before anyone else in his house awakened. Jim loved his many eccentric rituals, but there was nothing he loved more than his family.

Within months of leaving Armstrong in 2001, Jim was called by the CEOs of both Memorial Medical Center and St. Joseph’s/Candler Health Systems and asked to facilitate an initiative involving both hospitals and a multi-million-dollar cancer grant. Intrigued, he agreed to what he expected to be a three-month commitment, eventually serving for nine years as President and CEO of the Southeast Georgia Cancer Alliance.

At 77, after working for nearly 70 years, Jim finally retired. In the few years that followed, he delighted in doing very little with his days beyond exercising, reading, challenging his mind with puzzles and checking on his loved ones. He looked forward to complex conversations and assisting former colleagues and new community leaders with solving local, healthcare-related problems. Most importantly, he was never happier than when speaking one on one with his children and would, in fact, require they come separately to visit him so he could focus on each individual fully.

In his early 80’s, Jim began to lose the use of his legs. Dementia settled in a few years later. His family believes that Jim’s sound mind could not cope with his loss of independent mobility and, therefore, protected him from living with it knowingly. For the last five years of his life, Jim was beautifully cared for by Jill Muller, who he would have described as “a Repella through and through”. Jim’s wife never missed a moment to express her love for him through song, dance, laughter or, his favorite, food. She is devastated to be without him.

Surviving family members include his wife, Jacquelyn; sister, Mary Ann Jeddic (Jack); children, Lisa Repella, Geoffrey Repella (Warren), Meredith Dulany (Reed), Matthew Repella (Amy) as well as Jackie’s daughters, Katherine Barrett and Elizabeth Barrett; grandchildren, Megan, Lauren, Elizabeth, Emily, Grace, Finn, Mary McElveen, Reed, Louisa, Millie and James; great grandson, James; several nieces and nephews.

The family would like to thank Michael Davis, Linda Miles, Cowanza Rhodes, Gloria Bryant and Belinda Johnson for the amazing attention and care they provided to Jim daily.

A service will be held at Fox and Weeks Funeral Home on Hodgson Memorial Drive Thursday, April 25, at 2pm.







I have the best memories of “Mr. Repella”from when we all lived in State College Pennsylvania. One of my memories is him strapping on his “combat boots” and jogging before going to work! Also him driving his little blue VW bug…before Lisa took it over once she was able to drive. My dad was a colleague of his and they built a wonderful and humorous friendship. What an intelligent, funny, warm man. My thoughts go out to all of you. Kathy (Wirtz) Rodrick

- Kathy Wirtz Rodrick, Newark, NY

Our thoughts go out to Geoff and to Family and Friends of Dr. James Frank Repella! God Bless!

- Mark W. Douglas & Jeri S. Douglas, Sevierville, Tennessee

So sorry for your loss Amy.


I truly enjoyed working with Mr.Jim !!!! He liked when I quizzed him on various topics . He was quite the gentleman and he always made it a priority to respect everyone he encountered !!!! Mr.Jim will not be forgotten by me.

- Felisha Foreman, Savannah, Ga

Jackie, my thoughts and prayers are with you and the Repella family.

- Donna Moore, Savannah, GA

Jim and I were classmates at Penn Hospital School of Nursing for Men. At age 19, we bought a set of weights which led to this picture of our muscles. We were friends for life and I wish to send my expressions of sympathy to the family and friends of this really great person.

- George H. Michel LTC(Ret), Dallas, TX

I had the honor and privilege of caring for Jim for over 5 years. His wicked sense of humor, low tolerance for BS and his naughty smile made every single day an adventure. We spent many hours cruising the Landings on the golf cart, all the while singing songs at the top of our lungs. Jim would help me study for my citizenship exam, read the paper with me and do word puzzles. When we were on TR, we would watch the boats go by and just sit quietly sipping on a cup of coffee. He loved being made fun of and always gave away his punch lines with a smile before he said them. He filled a room with his personality and charisma and had a way of making everyone feel like they were the Bees Knees. He is missed already.

- Jill Muller, Savannah , GA

Services under the direction of:

Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors, Hodgson Chapel