HOWARD CITY — Dr. Edward Lepley had a way with animals — and their owners.
The longtime Montcalm County veterinarian is being remembered fondly after he died last Thursday at his home in Stanwood. He was 73 years old.
As a youth, Lepley excelled academically, as well as on the basketball court and football field.
He graduated from Bellevue High School in Ohio, where several of his athletic records still stand. Lepley served two years in the U.S. Army before earning his undergraduate and doctorate degrees at Ohio State University.
As a young man, Lepley practiced animal medicine in Denmark, England, where he set up a poultry research facility for the Spanish government and contracted with the province of Alberta to eradicate the brucellosis abortus cattle bacteria.
During a visit to Michigan in 1966, Lepley met his future wife, Sharron Binkley. They were married in 1967 and resided in Union Lake, where they had a son, Erik. The couple recently celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary.
Lepley established Waterford Veterinarian Hospital in Union Lake in 1968.
The Lepley family moved to a ranch near Canon City, Colo., in 1973, but returned to Michigan in 1978, when Lepley established Riversbend Animal Hospital. He went on to open Cedar Springs Animal Hospital and his current practice, Howard City Animal Hospital, which continues to be managed by his wife, Sharron.
Sharron Lepley said the animal hospital will continue to operate the same way her husband managed it, with high standards.
“He was the best guy on two feet,” said Sharron Lepley with emotion. “He supported me 100 percent in everything I did. There was nothing that he would not do for anyone.”
The Howard City Animal Hospital will be closed Friday and Saturday so “Doc’s girls,” as the staff is affectionately known, can attend Lepley’s visitation and funeral.
Dr. Nina Duflo will run Lepley’s practice with the assistance of Dr. Chris Donley.
“When you think of Doc, you really associate him with family and his genuine care for everybody,” Duflo said. “He was a veterinarian, but he was in the people business.”
Duflo said even after a typical busy day of seeing up to 80 animals, Lepley and his staff would sit down together and talk about the day, like a family.
“He was very protective like a father,” said receptionist Keesha Bates. “He had a way with the animals and the people.”
Receptionist Erin Knapp wept as she shared memories of working for Lepley.
“He was the most caring, honest, loyal man I’ve ever known in my life,” she said. “Money was never a concern with him. If people couldn’t afford the expense, he would tell them home remedies and different things they could try for their pets.
“He just had a way with animals,” she said. “We would have some dogs come in here that literally wanted to eat you alive. He would go into the room, talk to the client, pet the dog and the dog would be as quiet as a mouse. The dog was happy, the client was happy.”
Receptionist Holly Gordon said she couldn’t have asked for a better boss.
“He had so much faith in us girls that we knew what our jobs were and he was very confident in us,” she said. “He could go into a room with the nastiest dog or cat and everyone would come out smiling. It amazed all of us.”
Technician Therese Wall said making the long commute from Cadillac to work at the Howard City Animal Hospital was worth the trip for a boss such as Lepley.
“He was a true angel among us,” she said. “He was like Dr. Doolittle. It was not a job for him, it was a passion. I’ve done this for 27 years and I’ve never worked for anybody nicer than him or more compassionate.”
Visitation is scheduled from 1 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. today and Friday at Daggett-Gilbert Funeral Home in Big Rapids.
A Mass of Christian burial will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Christ the King Catholic Church in Howard City, where Lepley was a member. A luncheon will follow at the fellowship hall.