Chuck Repke’s life as a DFL strategist began with a mistaken identity.

One day, the Repkes’ phone rang at their home on St. Paul’s West Side. It was answered by 18-year-old Chuck Jr.

“Is Chuck there?” asked Jim Scheibel, who was active in city DFL politics and would go on to be elected mayor. He wanted to talk Repke’s dad, Chuck Sr., into attending an upcoming political gathering.

“This is Chuck,” said Chuck Jr.

“And Jim Scheibel proceeded to get him to agree to come,” said Gloria Bogen, Repke Jr.’s wife and best friend for the past 11 years. “That sort of started the whole thing.”

Surrounded by family and close friends, Repke died Aug. 2 after a yearslong fight with cancer. He was 67.

It ended a life lived behind the scenes of campaigns, caucuses and conventions, all with the goal of making St. Paul a better place to live, Bogen said.

“I think he wanted to see people do well. He wanted society to do well,” she said. “Party politics were a challenge. He liked to win and he wanted to make sure that things were fair.”

It is fitting that Repke was born in Washington, D.C. After his family moved to St. Paul, he attended Humboldt High School and the University of Minnesota. He graduated from college and jumped deep into local politics. He met Dave Thune in the early 1970s, and the two community activists became friends. In 1991, Repke helped Thune win a seat on the St. Paul City Council. Together, they worked to reinstate a city human rights ordinance that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and hiring.

“Without Chuck, I wouldn’t have been there and we wouldn’t have gotten done the things we got done,” Thune said. “Many people asked him to run their campaigns, their conventions. No matter which side you were on, you trusted him. He was a straight shooter.”

In later years, Repke turned his energies toward development. For more than 20 years he was executive director of the District 2 Community Council and North East Neighborhoods Development Corporation. He became a real estate broker and played a leading role in getting completed a number of projects, including recreating a vibrant new shopping area in the Phalen Village neighborhood on St. Paul’s East Side after a previous shopping center had shuttered.

“He brought back life to what had been a grocery desert,” Thune said.

It is also fitting that Repke, who became known for his ability to call the outcome of a political race just by looking at the early returns, would find joy at the horse track. He and Bogen were season table owners at Canterbury Park. She said he liked that success at the track often went hand-in-hand with research and past results for the horse, trainer and jockey. Frequent trips back to Washington and to Las Vegas were also a pleasure.

And he was a doting grandfather.

“He was really multifaceted,” Thune said of his friend. “A complete person.”

Repke was preceded in death by his parents, Charles William Repke Sr. and Maud Repke; sister Patricia Ann Grinnell; and one granddaughter. He is survived by his wife, Gloria Bogen; sons Charles Repke and Matthew Collins; sister Cora Wheeler; brother William Repke; three granddaughters and many other relatives and friends.

A celebration of life will be held Sept. 1 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Mancini’s Char House, 531 W. 7th St., St. Paul. Memorials preferred to District 2 Community Council at 1365 Prosperity Av., St. Paul, MN 55106.

James Walsh • 612-673-7428

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