Longtime volunteer and community leader Dixie Reppe has a full life at 80.
Dixie Reppe is well known by many Tulsans for her roles at YWCA Tulsa, Tulsa Opera, First Presbyterian Church and other organizations. She lives at Inverness Village, a south Tulsa retirement community where she serves on the board of directors and met her fiancé.
At 60 years old, Dixie Reppe faced the prospect of restarting her professional life.
The failing health of her husband, Rod, and the couple’s dwindling finances left Reppe no choice but to hit the job market at an age when some people are already thinking about retirement.
Reppe had worked as a teacher in her native Arizona when she was in her 20s, but the subjects she taught then mostly dealt with since-antiquated business machines and the skills required to run them.
“Everything I taught then had become obsolete,” Reppe recalls.
Fortunately, she called on the experience gained through many years of community service and volunteerism at organizations such as Tulsa Opera — where she also was executive director — and First Presbyterian Church.
YWCA Tulsa, for which Reppe also had volunteered, threw her a lifeline when it offered her a job as its director of marketing and development in the mid-1990s.
Unfortunately, Reppe recalls, the job description was a little unclear. For the first few days of her new job, she says she looked through old files and sharpened pencils.
Then, she had a revelation. She says she called everyone she knew who had a job in the local development field and began quizzing them over lunch about what they did at work all day.
Reppe evidently learned a lot. She did such a good job that after four years, she was promoted to the role of executive director.
By the time Reppe retired from YWCA Tulsa in December 2007, the organization’s annual budget had grown from $1 million to $5 million; its endowment grew from $25,000 to $2 million; reserves grew from $15,000 to $2 million; staff increased from 75 to 180; the number of people served grew from 15,000 to more than 60,000; and assets grew from $5 million to $12 million. The organization’s capital campaigns generated about $8.2 million.
While Reppe’s career was ascending, her husband’s health was deteriorating after a series of strokes. Eventually, the couple decided to move to Inverness Village, a south Tulsa retirement community.
Reppe has moved a lot in her life, living in Arizona, Utah, Wisconsin and Florida before settling in Oklahoma about 40 years ago. Still, the move to Inverness
Village was unique. She is convinced the community’s social aspect and fitness programs added years to her husband’s life.
“I had him a couple more years because of the environment there,” Reppe says.
Rod, former president of Sooner Federal Savings & Loan and founder of Reppe Properties and Reppe Development Co., died in 2008. With the couple’s three sons well into their adult years, Reppe says her brothers wanted her to move back to Arizona.
However, she chose to stay at Inverness Village. She says she is fascinated by the life stories of her fellow residents and has enjoyed accompanying them to events that she otherwise would not have attended.
She has bonded with a group of fellow female residents called the “Ya-Ya’s.” Most significantly, she has found love again. Nearing her 80th birthday, she is engaged to fellow resident Joe Pendergraft.
Reppe, who is a member of Inverness Village’s board of directors, says there is a misperception that the community is only for the well-to-do. But she says there is actually a wide economic span among the residents.
“It isn’t a castle with a moat around it,” Reppe says of the place she has called home for a decade. “It’s a lot of caring people.”