Over the years we have found all sort of interesting life stories of local residents, although sadly the public only learns of their feats in an obituary notice.
That was the case of West Bay City resident Louis Reip, who was most likely the oldest man in the Saginaw Bay region at 105 years, who passed away May 3, 1903. We mark the 113th anniversary of his passing.
As a centenarian, Reip may have had any number of life stories and adventures to tell, but the one that might be the most interesting was as a teenage soldier he fought against French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo.
And he carried the scars to prove it.
Reip was born in Blessberg, located in Thuringia and part of the Kingdom of Prussia, on April 5, 1798. At 17, he joined the army just as Napoleon was moving his army east to fight the coalition of England and Prussia and other allies.
He was assigned to a fighting division under Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher and saw combat first at the Battle of Ligny on June 16, 1815 and two days later at the decisive Battle of Waterloo. It was there Reip suffered a severe wound to his right hand by a French saber, which rendered his hand nearly useless for the rest of his life.
Still, Reip stayed in the army for six years, also fighting with the division in Denmark. During a battle there, he musket ball struck him in the left leg and he was stranded on the field for nearly 12 hours among his fallen comrades. In fact, he was found alive by a crew sent out to bury the dead soldiers and was taken back to his unit for medical care.
He was married in 1842 and in 1852 moved his family to Canada where he worked as a shoemaker for many years. He relocated to West Bay City in 1887, most likely because two of his sons and a daughter lived here. He resided with his daughter’s family at 207 S. Park St. (S. Warner St.) and later with son Charles’ family at 315 S. Catherine St.
According to a news account, “Mr. Reip, who was a familiar figure on the streets, was up and out of doors Saturday, but was not feeling well, having suffered from two or three congestive chills.” He passed away in his bed later that night.
While his wife had passed away years earlier, Reip was survived by sons John Reip, of Flint; Charles and Henry Reip, of West Bay City; and Mrs. James Cass, of West Bay City; and Mrs. Murphy, of Chicago.
A funeral mass was held in St. Mary’s Catholic Church with burial in St. Patrick Cemetery.