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Heritage resident turns 102, enjoys a week of celebration


The Dreamweaver Foundation granted one wish for a veteran in Council Bluffs, who will turn 102, on Thursday.

“I have no regrets in my life,” said David Appel, a resident of The Heritage of Fox Run. “I think I’ve really been fortunate to live the life I’ve lived.”

Appel, born on June 20, 1917, grew up near Dannebrog, Nebraska, and was part of the first list of men drafted to serve during World War II, he said. He served as a combat engineer in the U.S. Army on the west coast, securing the area against attacks from Japan, building entrapments and highways from 1941 to 1945. When Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, Appel said he was in Florida and was discharged in time for Father’s Day.

In honor of his military service and life, The Heritage at Fox Run hosted a celebration of life for him on Sunday, and an honorary celebration on Monday, displaying his uniform, photograph and military memorabilia. Family, friends and facility staff gathered in support of his service and birthday. Fox Run is planning a meal for the occasion on Thursday.

His birthday wish was to have his sister from Grand Island, Nebraska, in town for his birthday. Dreamweaver Foundation granted his wish by funding her stay in Council Bluffs for the entire week. “When you think about a lifetime of many years, there are so many things that he has done,” said Chaplain Mike York. “Since I’ve gotten to know him, I’ve really grown to respect him. He’s a good man.”

Appel married Eileen Johnson on Christmas Day 1945, soon after the war ended. Together, Johnson and Appel had three children: daughter Dianne Bartek; and sons Rod and Steve Appel. His family grew even more with seven grandchildren.

Appel worked for the railroad, although he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He saw success in civilian life with work, said his son, Rod Appel. Appel later worked for the Postal Transportation Service, Nettleton Business College in Omaha and the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency in Omaha. “We did the plotting of Pottawattamie County, Douglas, Sarpy, Harrison, and counties south of here in Iowa,” he said.

Appel walked and drove on his own until he was age 98, said Bartek. His health has deteriorated since then, she said.

“We’re trying to take it day by day and not overexert,” Bartek said.