Eugene E. "Gene" Lopoten, 86, of Lower Gwynedd, a decorated World War II veteran who nurtured enduring friendships with Europeans including several he helped liberate, died Sunday, April 22, after a long illness.
While serving with the Army, Mr. Lopoten took part in the liberation of Colmar, the capital of Alsace, and of the concentration camp at Dachau. The French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre and the Arms of Colmar.
In the days since his death, his widow Charlotte said she has received numerous telephone calls from European friends, many whose ties to her husband span decades. One call, she said, was from a young German boy, now in his 60s, whom her husband befriended.
"He was an amazing man," she said, adding that her husband of 25 years learned to speak German by the end of the war and could understand French. He went on to learn Spanish. "He wanted people here to have an appreciation of the European culture."
After the war, Mr. Lopoten, who studied journalism for a while at the American University in Biarritz, France, sent food and to clothing to the French and German families he had gotten to know. An avid traveler, he maintained the relationships with visits, and his children and grandchildren became part of the relationships as well, his wife said.
Mr. Lopoten was a military marketing specialist for over 35 years and retired from a company he started that is now called Procurement Professionals Inc., and is run by his son, Randy LaPoten, whose name the father changed to make it easier for his sons. Not long ago, the son said, he was surprised by footage of his father in a History Channel documentary. When LaPoten's son Austin, 22, returns to Scotland, where he lives, next week, LaPoten said he will carry some of his grandfather's ashes to place in the English Channel. "They'll make their way to France," LaPoten said.
Mr. Lopoten was a charter member of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington as well as a member of Adelphia Lodge, B'nai B'rith, the Liberty Chapter of the American Red Mogen David, the Jewish War Veterans, and former president of the Rye Valley Country Club. For 14 years, he and his wife delivered Meals on Wheels.
Besides his wife, son, and grandson, Mr. Lopoten is survived by son Gary, stepdaughters Jennifer Marks-Gold, Pamela Lean, and Lisa Hoffman, and six other grandchildren. Mr. Lopoten was predeceased by wives Helene and Marlene.