Vet honored for work with students

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Gus Epple of Cape May Court House received a volunteer award at the Middle Township Senior Center Oct. 11. He is shown with Minnie Callendar. Gus Epple of Cape May Court House received a volunteer award at the Middle Township Senior Center Oct. 11. He is shown with Minnie Callendar.

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – Gus Epple of Cape May Court House has been instrumental in bringing personal stories of World War II to 6,000 students in more than a dozen schools.

Since 1999, members of the Veterans of the Battle of Bulge organization have spoken at schools, including in Middle Township, Lower Township and Woodbine.

The teachers gave the facts, and the veterans share their experiences, Epple said. He said he created and ran the education program.

Epple’s service has not gone unnoticed.

The 87-year-old was named the Rudy Callender honoree at the Middle Township Senior Center on Thursday, Oct. 11. The event is held annually to honor a volunteer.

“I was absolutely overwhelmed,” Epple said in an interview.

Several years ago, Middle Township Committee declared the day in honor of Callendar.

The late Rudy Callender helped in establishing and operating the township senior center and volunteered elsewhere in the community.

Callender’s widow Minnie announced that the award went to Epple.

He received a Middle Township senior citizen volunteer award plaque from Middle Township Committee. Epple also got condemnations from U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo and from state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, Assemblyman Nelson Albano and Assemblyman Matt Milam.

“It was just a beautiful feeling,” Epple said.

He served in the U.S. Army 87th Infantry Division from 1943 to 1946, and went to Belgium and France. Epple served as a mortarman, along with other duties.

“It was a very different time,” Epple said.

He received three battle stars for campaigns, including Central Europe.

Epple said he was never wounded.

“I wouldn’t want to do it again,” he said.

But Epple said he is happy he served.

Epple said he is good friends with Minnie and met Rudy in the late 1990s. Rudy Callendar also fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Also called the Ardennes campaign, the Battle of the Bulge was a German offensive in December, 1944 and January, 1945, aimed at halting the allied advance across Europe in World War II. 

Middle Township Committeewoman Susan DeLanzo said Rudy was heavily involved in the community, such as the hospital and Cape May String Band.

Epple served as production director for many trade and consumer magazines, including Family Weekly

After moving from Central Jersey to Cape May County, Epple started a farm in 1994 selling daylilies.  He said the business on Dias Creek Road will reopen in the spring, where potted plants will be sold.

Epple is married to Ellen and they have four children and nine grandchildren. They are both members of St. Mary's Episcopal Church of Stone Harbor.

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