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Former principal, wife die of natural causes at Fla. home

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:49 PM

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Police have determined a former Norwalk educator died of natural causes Tuesday at his St. Petersburg, Fla. condominium.

Officers responded to a request to check on the well-being of Louis C. Rapalee, 78, and his wife, Jewelldene "Jewell" Rapalee, 58, after a resident in the complex was concerned because the couple hadn't been seen in several weeks, the St. Petersburg Police Department said. There also was unclaimed mail accumulating in their mailbox.

Police found the couple dead inside the couple's condominium. "Both of them had been dead for several weeks. Both of their personal vehicles were parked in the parking lot and nothing appeared to be disturbed inside the residence," an officer wrote.

"It's not being investigated as a homicide," police spokesman George Kajtsa said this morning. He noted that Jewelldene Rapalee's cause of death has not been determined, but said her husband died of natural causes.

Detectives determined "there were no indications of homicidal violence." Police said their preliminary investigation showed that Louis Rapalee "had a long history of medical problems, evidenced by an abundance of medical prescriptions in the home and by confirmation of his personal physician."

Police suspect Rapalee may have died first and his wife died "a short time afterward."

Rapalee was a principal at Maplehurst Elementary School as well as in South Central Local Schools.

"He was the second principal at Norwalk Middle School," Norwalk City Schools Superintendent Wayne Babcanec said. Rapalee was the principal there from 1966 until 1977.

From 1977 until his 1982 retirement, he was the Maplehurst principal. He first was hired in the school district in 1965, as principal at Pleasant and Bronson elementary schools.

Norwalk resident Bill Conway, a former principal at Pleasant and Bronson, worked with Rapalee, starting with his first year in 1966.

"That was the year (he) transferred to the middle school as a principal," Conway said. "We were more than co-workers; we were good friends."

Conway called Rapalee a "tremendous administrator" who cared for students. "His whole life was given over to providing the very best for children," he added.

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