After a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease, Richard passed away on Friday, December 25, 2020 at the age of 88 in the Markham Stouffville Hospital, Ontario, Canada. He is survived by his wife, of nearly 69 years, Maria Lapple (nee Köchl ), his son Robert (Maxine) Lapple and their children, Alicia Lapple (Michael Arenson) and their daughter Rose Arenson, Rebecca Lapple (John Serre), Adam Lapple (Anna Rose Gagne-Lapple) and their daughter Arielle Lapple, his son Raymond (Rossana) Lapple and their son Christian Lapple, his siblings Edith Steurer and Branko (Irene) Lapple, numerous nieces and nephews.
Richard is preceded in death by his father, Ludwig Friedrich Lapple, his mother, Margarete Metlak (nee Wendlener-Lapple) and his half sister Olga Lapple.
Richard was born in Sarajevo, Kingdom of Yugoslavia; a city with a long history of religious coexistence and cultural diversity; with a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue all within the same neighborhood. His childhood was inextricably linked to a father who was a dedicated steam locomotive engineer for the Bosnian-gauge railway and a decorated WW1 hero. Richard had some learning disabilities as a child and as a result did not do well in school but he was blessed with innate mechanical abilities, which would serve him well later in life.
However, by April 18, 1941 the NAZIs had overrun the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and replaced the government with the NDH puppet state. Violent conflict erupted, including aerial bombardment and reprisal murders, between the warring factions (i.e. NAZI forces & the pro Nazi Ustaše coalition vs. the Serbian Chetniks & Yugoslav Communist Partisans) which made life in this region increasingly precarious. Richard’s father passed away in the early part of 1942 because of an insulin shortage and was buried with full military honours. Shortly afterwards, his family fled Sarajevo (except his oldest half sister, who chose to stay behind) to the Kirschberg “Seidlungslager”; a resettlement camp for “Volksdeutsche” emigrants, located in the Litzmannstadt district, Reichsgau Wartheland, in Nazi annexed Poland. For the next couple of years Richard was enrolled in the compulsory “Deutsches Jungvolk” program, for boys 10 to 14 years old, under the auspices of the Hitler Youth parent organization. It consisted of strict discipline, marching, parade bands, sports & indoctrination in the tenets of Nazi ideology.
With the advance of the Red Army in January 1945 Richard, his sister and their mother had to, once again, flee; this time, they found refuge in a “Behelfsheim” in the city of Villach, Reichsgau Kärnten, an administrative region of Nazi annexed Austria & where, months later, he was finally reunited with his brother. There, they endured serious food shortages and the American bombardments. After the war, Richard’s surviving sister was married and settled in the Villach area, which had become part of the British zone of occupation. In 1946 Richard began an apprenticeship program where he learned machine shop & electrical skills, auto body repair and welding. In 1950 he was certified as a licensed automobile mechanic.
Richard, his brother and mother were eventually granted their "non- repatriateable, displaced person” status from the UN IRO (United Nations International Refugee Organization). They were relocated to Camp Grohn, on the outskirts of Bremen, in the "North German American Zone of Occupation". At that time, it served as an IRO administered "forced migrant/displaced person” resettlement camp. After being screened by a team of Canadian officials, Richard, his brother and mother were offered the opportunity of going to Canada under C.D. Howe’s 1947 “bulk labour program”; designed to provide the Canadian agriculture, logging, mining and domestic sectors an immediate, cheap & stable source of labour. Richard, his brother and mother each signed an indentured service contract, for a period of twelve months with the Canadian Department of Labour, which in turn would fulfill, as they saw fit, “orders” from industry for labourers. Richard, his brother and their mother departed, on 19 May 1950 from the Bremerhaven Port of Embarkation, aboard a ship built to transport American troops, the USS General Stuart Heintzelman (AP-159).
With little more than the clothes on their backs, the 1200 passengers arrived at Pier 21 Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on May 28th 1950. Richard, his brother and mother were housed at Pier 21 for a couple of days; then provided with train tickets to their assigned places of employment. Their mother was deployed as a domestic worker on a farm near Culross, Manitoba, while over the next twelve months Richard and his brother were deployed to five different locations, namely:
1. a CPR railway construction gang somewhere near Kenora, Ontario. His job was to secure rail. Using a spike maul, Richard had to drive six inch long "rail spikes" through the metal base plates & into the wooden railroad ties. Six spikes were driven per plate, and two plates applied per tie for each rail. Therefore, thousands of spikes had to be driven for each mile of track, since ties are placed on 16 inch centers. Richard was expected to drive the spike in with a maximum of three blows. It required great strength and considerable stamina to maintain the pace that was required.
2. Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Although the fertile clay-loam soil is excellent for growing sugar beets, the great Flood of 1950 had transformed the soil into the infamous, sticky, “Manitoba gumbo”. Richard had to perform backbreaking, exhausting fieldwork. In June he blocked, thinned, and weeded the fields, most often on his knees with short-handled hoes. In late September, with the ground already partially frozen he had to pull, top, and pile the beets. They then were hauled by horse and wagon to the local elevator & by rail to the Manitoba Sugar Company sugar processing plant in the Fort Garry area of Winnipeg.
3. Culross, Manitoba to work on a farm shearing sheep. Richard described this job as trying to give a buzz cut to a woolly, four-legged wrestler that is fighting you all the while, trying to break free from your hold.
4. A lumber camp north of Port Arthur, Ontario. As a pulpwood logger Richard had to endure the harsh winter cold, physically demanding, solitary work and the deprivations of remote, crude, bush camps. Having only a bucksaw he was paid according to the volume of wood or "cordage" he cut and stacked.
5. The fields around the towns of Delhi and Tillsonburg, Ontario. Priming, topping, worming, suckering, selective harvesting and stacking the flue-cured Virginia tobacco leaf meant long, hot days of being stooped over. The sticky, nicotine filled sap led to Richard getting allergic reactions & green tobacco sickness.
When they were discharged from their indentured service contracts Richard, his brother and mother were granted their landed immigrant status. They chose to settle in Toronto, Ontario. He had to overcome poor language skills and the prejudice towards DPs, prevalent in that post war, largely Anglo-Saxon community. Eventually, he managed to get hired with a GM dealership, Hogan Pontiac; not as a licensed mechanic but as a 1st year automotive apprentice with flat rate remuneration.
A mutual friend from Yugoslavia introduced Richard to a beautiful “Mädchen”, Maria Köchl who had arrived in Canada from Graz, Austria only three days earlier. Richard succeeded in buying out Maria’s indentured service contract and three months later, on December 26, 1951 they were married. Richard persevered and learned sufficient English to get certified as a licensed Automotive Service Technician in Ontario. In 1955 Richard borrowed, from his brother, the minimum down payment on a small bungalow in Scarborough, Ontario and started growing his own family. He became an avid 8 mm videographer. During the winter months, when there was little work to be had, his pay was very meager & he struggled just to make ends meet. Over the next five years, Maria gave birth to two healthy boys.
Richard always worked hard to advance in his profession; at Alex Irvine Motors Ltd., he was the shop foreman in their Chev-Olds dealership. He became the service manager for both their AMC/Renault division, and later their leasing division. Just prior to his retirement, he was transferred back to the Chev-Olds dealership, now under new ownership, as a commissioned service advisor. He also earned extra money for the family by doing many “side jobs”, such as welding, auto repairs, buying/ restoring and selling used cars, to name but a few.
What little “leisure time” he had was spent doing home renovations, some wood working and in the evenings, when everyone else was asleep, he loved to listen to his records. His crowning achievement was the completion of his idyllic, cedar log cottage at Wood Lake, Muskoka, Ontario. He was the happiest when he could just sit, undisturbed, on his bench-by-the-lake, to watch the sun set and to enjoy a good puff on his wine dipped cigarillo.
Richard was generally a pragmatist who valued hard work & loathed slothfulness in others. In social settings, he liked to practice the art of “schmoozing”, particularly with the ladies. At home, he was a firm but fair disciplinarian. He lived a rather frugal life & certainly practiced his motto “whenever practical & only if it breaks, then fix it - don't replace it”! He drove either demonstrators or used cars, until he retired. Any savings were reinvested in a series of prudent real estate transactions. As a result, Richard was able to retire at the age of 60. Both of his sons had left home by this time.
Richard and Maria then moved to a debt free home in Niagara-On-The-Lake and later to a condo in the Highlands Community by the Hunter’s Glen Golf course in Welland, Ontario. Although Richard still enjoyed earning “some pocket money” as the “go-to handyman guy” for all the neighbourhood widow ladies, much of his “leisure time” in retirement was spent enjoying his new found passion…GOLF. Every winter they became “snowbirds”; Florida and Portugal being their favorite destinations. In addition, they vacationed all across Canada, Hungary, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Morocco, Hawaii, Aruba and Mexico.
Although Richard enjoyed travel, he was always glad to get back to Canada. His country was Canada and as a proud Canadian, this was home. He was truly grateful for the peace, freedom and opportunities that it had afforded him.
Over the years he impacted many lives.....he truly will be missed by all.
Cremation has already taken place.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a “Celebration of Life” memorial service will be held at a later date, when it is safe to do so.