Jacqueline Anne (Heil) Repko, of Gilbertsville, PA wife of the late Raymond Repko of Pottstown, passed away on Sunday, June 13, 2021 in Jacksonville Beach, FL.
Born in Pottstown, she was the daughter of the late Jacob and Caroline (Gumbarge) Heil.
Jacqueline Anne Mary Paula (Heil) Repko left her Earthly home on June 13, 2021, just a few months shy of her 84th birthday. This constituted the first and only known instance of Jackie’s managing to be shy. Otherwise, throughout her life, if our Mom was deciding whether or not to say something — it was already too late.
Jackie was born to Jake and Caroline Heil on July 10th, 1937. She spent the brunt of her life in the vicinity of Pottstown, PA, where she will reside in some capacity for the rest of eternity. She will be laid to rest in the cemetery of St. Aloysius R.C. Parish on July 6, 2021. There she will rejoin some of the people most important to her, including her parents, Jake and Carrie, aka, “Cash and Carry” proprietors of The Gladwynne Café,” the busiest little corner in Pottstown, at South and Charlotte Streets. They said they were Gladwynne you came in, and Gladwynne you left. Jackie was happy in her childhood.
Upon arrival at the St. Aloysius Cemetery resting place, Jackie will also embrace her aunt Maggie (Heil) Arters and her uncle (Bud) Roy Arters, whom she treasured as an extra set of parents in her youth. Bud and Maggie have been waiting for their little niece since 1967 and 1972. The reunion may include the preparation of fat noodle pot pie – the only proper way to make it – and some halupkis as well.
Jackie graduated from Pottstown High School in 1955, ranking 12th in a class of 238 students. Shortly thereafter, she met Raymond “Barney” Repko at a dance, when she fell down the stage stairs, and Barney caught her. Barney was not much of a fisherman, and there was no catch and release instinct in play. The courtship endured for the next 46 years.
She married Raymond “Barney” Repko on December 1, 1956, from which point on she consistently found a target for her reliable displeasure and dissatisfaction. Jackie called it “chewing” and credited Aunt Maggie with developing her advanced skills in criticism. She held a number of positions immediately after high school – including a stint at Ellis Mills, a Pottstown fixture for generations, before moving onto her full-time job birthing and raising nine children. Those “9 Little Indians” were born between the years 1957 and 1965. Yes, that means she had nine children in slightly more than eight years, with three of those children, the triplets, being born in April of “65. The oldest child, Michael, arrived in March of 1957.
Barney and Jackie moved the children from Kenilworth to New Hanover in July 1964, as the family burst its ranch home seams with the triplet girls – Faith, Hope, and Charity – set to arrive in April of 1965. The landing spot was a Farmhouse on 14 acres at the confluence of Swamp Pike and Wagner Road. This mostly pastoral setting remained home for The Repkos, in one configuration or another, until 2020. These were a jubilantly turbulent fifty-five years, with the Barney and Jackie branch of the Repko family tree growing and occasionally prospering whenever circumstances permitted. One of Jackie’s many laments was that the neighborhood at 2427 Swamp Pike evolved from a rural setting where the cows crossed Swamp Pike twice a day at the Moyer property, to a suburban sprawl that made it difficult to leave the driveway to get onto Swamp Pike. The country setting got swallowed up by improvement.
All of the Repko children played basketball at the top of the hill, with a basket affixed to the barn. They all also attended Saint Mary’s Catholic School in Schwenksville, most of them for 8 years. During this period Mrs. Repko was known to navigate the Country Squire station wagon (with obligatory wood paneling) to numerous basketball games, May Processions, and weekly Masses. It too was a happy time in her life. In fact, Jackie maintained a deep and consistent association with the Catholic Church. She loved to say her prayers, even when she wasn’t praying exactly. “You say Grace and I’ll say Agnes” was a favorite saying, as was “Hail Mary, full of grace, forty chickens in a race.” She was also known to say genuine prayers, especially for those who needed them.
The happiest years of Mom Repko’s life likely coincided with the high school years of her children, of whom she was remarkably proud. She loved to tell how the children were singularly happy and well-adjusted, as they never quarreled or fought in any way. For Jackie (Heil) Repko, the truth never got in the way of a good story, so she continued to narrate that same tale until the end. During this period, from approximately 1975 to 1983, Jackie reveled in developing relationships with the classmates and confidantes of her children. Friends were always welcome in the farmhouse in New Hanover township, especially on Sundays, when spaghetti and meatballs, and butter bread, were available in portions that might feed an army. This was good, because an army of high school age children were likely to attend Sunday dinners. Over the years, the devotion of these adoptive children brought smiles quite often. Some of those young friends also frequented on hotdog Saturday, when thirty or so wieners were boiled in a giant soup pot, and whomever got there first had his fill.
During this same period, keg parties in the barn were a periodic part of life on the farm. Anywhere from 10 to 300 kids might attend these raucous gatherings, but not before the New Hanover Police Department called to request that the high school guests refrain from parking on Wagner Road and preventing traffic from passing. During these boisterous celebrations, many friends of the kids got to know Mom Repko, who loved talking to them. This enjoyment did not stop Jackie from announcing that next morning that there would be “no more parties in the barn.” Nor did it stop the next party in the barn – or the one after that.
When the children married and moved away, and then had their own children, the preeminence of Sunday was recaptured. Most of her older children brought offspring of their own for dinners. Thus, the pasta and spaghetti pattern that had prevailed in the late 70s and early 80s was continued after a momentary pause. It endured until Pop Pop Barney’s passing in January of 2002. During this phase, from roughly 1980 until 2000, it was not uncommon for Sunday dinner to be comprised of five to nine children, their spouses, and as many as fourteen grandchildren. Dinner was often followed by quoits, ping pong, basketball, or games of kick the can. These games careened across the sprawling lawns and fields surrounding the 19th century farmhouse. For a short while, the grandchildren were known to take a walk down Wagner or Fagleysville Road, past the Elliot dairy farm that is now Bella Vista Golf Course, in search of the “The Mountain Man,” a character invented by, and played by, Pop Pop Barney to entertain the offspring. Jackie loved these years.
The tone of this biography is intended to keep focus on the happiest elements of Jackie’s life. But it would be remiss to exclude all sadness and regret. She lamented the early death of her father when she was 15 years old, and cared for others whenever there was a need. She was rightfully dissatisfied with the hardscrabble lifestyle, and grumbled about the price of things long after those cost were hers to carry. Jackie’s martyrdom spanned long periods, such as when her Aunt Maggie practically lived in the farmhouse with the 9 children. The later years of her mother, Caroline, saw Big Grammy residing in the homestead from 1985 until her passing in 1994.
In the end, Jackie demonstrated a sense of personal sacrifice that was boundless, as were the reminders. It was not always healthy though, and so the struggle came with noticeable cost, especially for those who were closest to her.
We must also note Jackie’s resiliency. She raised nine children (plus Joe Dunn, who was dropped off like Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird, somewhere near his 7th birthday, and joined the brood.) She raised them all, and some of their friends, with little money, on the proverbial wing and a prayer. She withstood the physical trauma of 7 pregnancies in 8 years, and professional child-rearing, with only occasional consistent help. She survived multiple confrontations with cancer, more than one attack by a wringer-washer, emphysema, cellulitis, poor circulation, and a persistent case of Bell’s palsy. When the COVID virus found her last year, the odds said she was going to be in trouble. She was mildly uncomfortable for three days. None of us was terribly surprised. Her grandchildren didn’t call her sassy Grammy for nothing. Two at least told me they believed little Grammy was going to live forever.
They were mistaken.
May God grant thee eternal rest, and may perpetual light shine upon you, Mom – unless it’s brighter than you want it to be in Heaven.
In that case, I wish you a reasonable amount of shade.
You have left quite a legacy. All nine children know the wonders of Elvis, and all have learned the existential value of jitterbugging. I truly hope you and Barney will cut some rug in Heaven. The image of the two of you dancing in the foyer at the Farmhouse is etched in the statuary of my brain. That scene incorporated the brightest smile I ever saw you wear.
Please watch over all of us. We can always use your sound advice.
Surviving are her sons Michael B. Repko, husband of Cynthia (Melcher) Repko, Jay K. Repko, Philip E. Repko, husband of Julie (Humphries) Repko, Roy C. Repko, husband of Denise (Gvodas) Repko; daughters Elizabeth (Repko) Swerdloff, wife of Lee Swerdloff, Jeanine Marie (Repko) Ballantyne, wife of Scott Ballantyne, Faith (Repko) Dehring, wife of Robert Dehring, Hope (Repko) Gunn, and Charity (Repko) Wintle, wife of Jeff Wintle; grandchildren Matthew Repko, Nathan Repko, Melia Repko-Erwin, Jayson Repko, Jacob Repko, Janelle Repko, Maggie Swerdloff, Katie Swerdloff, Philip J. Repko, Emily (Repko) Moser, Ian C. Repko, Brandon Ballantyne, Shannon (Ballantyne) Becker, Ryan C. Repko, Brett Repko, Eric M. Repko, Samantha Dehring, Sean Dehring, Aaron Dehring, Alec Gunn, Camryn Gunn, Chanel Thomasos, Abi (Thomasos) McCartney, Joshua WIntle, and Noah Wintle; great grandchildren Ryan Repko, Anthony Repko, Noah Repko-Erwin, Emerson Repko-Erwin, Gabrielle and Emma Repko, Brooke Repko, , Westly, Evangeline, and Alexandria Repko, Harper, Hudson, and Judah Repko, Ivory, Olivia, Clementine Repko, Laine and Wesley Repko, Callen and Emeric Becker.
A funeral mass will be celebrated on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, at St. Aloysius Church (223 Beech St, Pottstown, PA 19464) at 10:30AM, with Fr. Joseph L. Maloney officiating. Burial will follow at St. Aloysius Cemetery. Visitation will also be held on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, from 9:00-10:15AM at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to https://secure.everyaction.com/xBpsJJ7nt0a1iD9FC0EH3Q2, https://namimontcopa.org/donate_now/, or https://ofsds.org/donate-to-old-friends-senior-dog-sanctuary/ in Jacqueline’s name.
The family has also created a memorial page at https://www.mykeeper.com/profile/JacquelineRepko/