Dedicated city activist LePera dies
Councilmember John Carioscia had grown close with Ralph LePera during the final 10 months of his life.
LePera was more than a mentor, Carioscia said, but instead a kind of trainer that hammered the new council member into a lean, mean, political machine capable of taking on all comers during his race toward the District 2 seat.
LePera was testing him, Carioscia said, because he only wanted what was best for the city. It was all he ever wanted.
“Ralph wore his heart on his sleeve and called it exactly like he saw it,” Carioscia said. “He was a phenomenal individual … I’m going to miss him.”
LePera died Saturday, Dec. 10, at the age of 71.
Born in Paterson N.J., LePera and his wife, Alex, made their way to Cape Coral so Ralph could be close to his daughters, who were living in the Cape at the time.
He had a long-term career as a top producer of electronic medical equipment sales, leaning on electronics training he received while serving in the Navy.
Most will likely remember LePera as a prolific citizen activist and government watchdog who leaves behind a legacy that, to some, is the last of its kind.
Not only was he the voice and inspiration for the Cape Coral Civic Association, but he was also a trusted and close friend to many.
His passion for Cape Coral knew no bounds, according to Lyndia Bradley, Civic Association president.
“Many of us get involved in politics, then we go about our business,” Bradley said. “Not Ralph. He was Civic (Association), a true political activist in Cape Coral.”
Bradley added, “He’s probably the last of the generation that were heavily involved in this city.”
LePera is survived by four daughters, six grandchildren, one great-grandchild, two brothers and a sister.
He’s also survived by his wife Alex, who served as a city council member for two terms.
Alex said there were three things that were of the utmost importance to Ralph: veterans, Cape Coral and, of course, his family.
His passion for Cape Coral was not limited to local politics; instead, Ralph was invested in all aspects of the city, Alex said.
He had an “intensity” about Cape Coral Hospital, was a staunch conservationist and proud that the city was able to land a multi-million dollar veterans facility, scheduled to open next year.
He eventually became active in the local political scene, as a member of the Civic Association and founding a political action committee called CLOUT – Citizens League of United Tax Payers – that vetted and promoted candidates.
He also eventually served as Alex’s campaign manager during her run for the Cape City Council.
Through all of that, he still held his family close and they were the most important thing in his life, Alex said.
“He loved me and he loved his girls,” she added. “He was proud of the success all four of his girls achieved in life.”
Former councilwoman Dolores Bertolini founded CLOUT along with the LePeras and several other citizens.
The process by which a person becomes a citizen activist isn’t always the same, but it usually comes down to a single issue that involves you personally, according to Bertolini.
You get sucked in, she said, and activism becomes a part of your life.
She said she saw LePera change through the years, from someone who gave no ground on an issue to someone who wanted to listen and accept the ideas of others.
The constant though the years, she said, was LePera’s love and dedication to Cape Coral, a commitment that will hopefully serve as an inspiration to the next generation of citizen activists and watchdogs.
“He should be remembered as someone who would have an idea, a vision and move on it,” Bertolini said. “He was the ultimate advocate for good government.”
Bertolini added, “I’m hoping the legacy he left behind has inspired people to pick up the flag.”
The Cape Coral Civic Association planned on honoring LePera during their 50th Anniversary. Now that celebration will take on an even greater significance with his passing
Bradley said the Civic Association board will greatly miss his guidance, his presence and his knowledge. Most of all, they’ll miss their friend.
His absence creates a giant hole, Bradley added, one that may never be filled in the Civic Association, or in the city.
“Ralph was the last warrior,” she said.
A tribute to Ralph’s life will be held at Fuller Metz Funeral Home, 3740 Del Prado Blvd., Thursday, Dec. 22, at 6 p.m.