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Dedicated Der Bote volunteer leaves lengthy legacy

   
 
   

July 13, 2009
- Dan Dyck, from reports

Winnipeg, Man. — For Dick Epp’s family, Der Bote was respected like no other paper in the household.

Growing up in Glenbush, Sask., it was Epp’s job to cut up the newspapers to be re-purposed in the family’s outdoor toilet. The family subscribed to four papers: the Winnipeg Free Press, The Western Producer, The Family Herald and Der Bote, the German language newspaper of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada – and later Mennonite Church Canada.

“My mother gave me strict instructions never to cut up Der Bote. It was special... [issues of] Der Bote were saved. They did not go the way of other newspapers,” said Epp at Bethany Manor in Saskatoon where he presented reflections about his long involvement with the paper on Oct. 13, 2007. Der Bote ceased publication in March, 2008, after 84 years of service. An ageing and steadily declining readership made the paper’s future unviable.

Betty, Epp’s wife of 53 years, together with family and friends said farewell to Diedrich Helmuth Epp at his funeral service in Saskatoon on July 3. He died on June 28.

Epp was an active member on the board of Der Bote for many years, often serving as recording secretary. His name first appeared in masthead of the paper in 1990.

Ingrid Janzen Lamp, former Der Bote editor, and before that, longtime volunteer for the paper, said Epp was always cheerful, optimistic and hopeful. He attended every meeting unless he was seriously ill.

Although Epp grew up with the paper, his interest in Der Bote was intertwined with his passion for Mennonite history, and in particular the history of Mennonites who had come to Canada from Russia. Janzen Lamp wrote in an email that “I think his biggest contributions to Der Bote were photographs, articles, and his support in other ways.”

In the early 1970s, Epp became a founding member, and later, long-time president of the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan and Alberta, which later evolved into two separate entities. Leonard Doell, a past president of Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan, wrote in a tribute that Epp recognized the importance of belonging to the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada. Epp would often pay most or all of the $500 annual membership fee from his own pocket when the Saskatchewan society’s coffers were empty during its early, lean years. In 1996, Epp left the president’s post but remained a wholly active volunteer in the Saskatchewan society.

Both Dick and Betty have been charter members of Nutana Mennonite Church in Saskatoon. With strong support from Betty, Dick was active on many church related boards, committees, and organizations.

During his career life, Epp held the positions of teacher, vice-principal, and principal, later working in administration for the Saskatoon Public School Board. Epp was also an avid photographer, producing multi-image slide show productions presented in cities in Canada and the United States.