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Appel memorable figure in community

WORTHINGTON -- Orville Appel built countless homes in Worthington, but most area residents will probably remember him best for his larger-than-life personality and the water ski shows he engineered several decades ago.

Appel, 77, died Sunday at Sunset Cottage hospice facility in Worthington after a battle with cancer.

Appel lived in the Worthington area all his life, except for a stint serving in the U.S. Army during World War II.

"He drove Jeep for Dwight D. Eisenhower at Fort Riley, Kan.," recounted son Steve Appel. "He would haul Eisenhower to see his brother in Missouri someplace."

As a developer and building contractor, Appel had a hand in the development of many neighborhoods in Worthington and was particularly proud of the Lakeview Heights addition, a housing development situated along Lake Okabena's Sunset Bay area. Steve noted that Appel insisted on a final tour of that addition as he was transported via ambulance to the Sunset Cottage.

In earlier years, Appel was renowned for his water-skiing shows, which included a red ski kite and a jump. He not only performed shows on Lake Okabena, but also on lakes throughout the region. At one time, Appel served on the boat patrol for the sheriff's department and took on the annual task of dropping a wreath from his boat on the lake during local Memorial Day services.

In addition to being active in local veterans' organizations, Appel served on the Worthington City Council during the 1970s.

"He was very dedicated to Worthington," Steve said. "He was as loyal to Worthington as anyone who ever lived."

The outdoors -- and hunting in particular -- was a passion for Appel.

"He had land up by Park Rapids, and his life was deer hunting, taking care of his land," said Steve, who added, "and his cat, Mitzi."

Appel was also dedicated to his family, taking care of his wife, Mavis, and boasting of his grandchildren. Steve followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a local contractor, but Appel was also proud of having three police officers in the family and doted on his great-granddaughters.

Bennie Gerdes of Worthington became friends with Appel when they were just 17 years old and said that Appel was a guy who everyone in the area just knew because of his colorful personality.

"He was a guy who was always wanting to be seen, and you knew that he was there," Gerdes said.

Appel's residence on West Shore Drive sustained major damage from a fire in 2003, and Steve was given the job of rebuilding -- although his father joked about giving the job to one of his competitors.

"I think he was retired for 12, 13 years, but you didn't know it," Steve said. "When I built his house, he still knew how to boss."

Per Appel's wishes, there will be no funeral service. The family will host a reception in Appel's memory from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at his home at 617 West Shore Drive. He will be buried privately on his land near Park Rapids.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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