Tribute to Dr. George K. Epp (1924 - 1997)
Written by Victor Janze
Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada ROA 2A0
George K. Epp was born on 26 October, 1924, in the village of
Osterwick, near Chortitsa, Ukraine. His father, Kornelius Epp, was
teacher and - as he would not compromise his Christian principles
to the Communist Government, the family was forced to move several
times. By the time World War II broke out, they lived in Franzfeld,
During the German occupation, George Epp was forced to enlist
in the army and after the war ended up in Germany as a refugee.
To avoid being Arepatriated@ back to Soviet Union, he joined the
first group of Mennonite refugees going to Paraguay on the Dutch
ship, Volendam, as Canada would not accept any refugees at that
In Paraguay, George Epp helped found the colony named after the
ship, Volendam, where he also was elected as lay-minister. In 1948
he married Agnes Froese, who became a true supporter and help in
his works later in Canada.
In 1954 they were able to immigrate to Canada, making their home
in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Here he was able to pursue his education
at the University of Manitoba, working as glass-blower to support
himself and family. Two boys were born to them in Canada.
Eventually George acquired his Ph.D. in history. He taught in
colleges and at the Universities. He served a term of five years
as president of Canadian Mennonite Bible College and became the
first president of Menno Simons College, which was founded under
All this time he was also very active in Church and community
work, serving one term as Pastor of Douglas Mennonite Church.
His great concern, however, was to write the history of the Mennonites
in Russia. He collected material and spent his free time sorting
and compiling his material.
On his last trip to Germany, where he was to give presentations
on certain topics on the history of the Mennonites in Russia, he
started bleeding internally and had to be hospitalized. Cancer was
diagnosed which would require surgery, but he asked to be transported
home to Canada. After further tests, he was operated on and underwent
treatment. When out of hospital, he continued to work hard on his
history project, with the help of his wife, Agnes, who faithfully
typed and proofread his manuscripts. His condition, however, deteriorated,
when cancer spread through his body and he had to be hospitalized
again. Here he experienced the joy of seeing his first volume of
The History of Mennonites in Russia in printed edition.
Because of the severe pain endured, he was often under sedation,
which made communication difficult or impossible. Finally, on 25
October, 1997, his Lord, whom he had faithfully served all his life,
called him home and ended his suffering.
Throughout his life, George still had time, or made time for his
fellow man, his friends, parishioners, students, and colleagues,
which left too little time for the family.
Rest in peace, George, friend, pastor, teacher, mentor, husband,
father and grandfather.
Reprinted with permission of Victor Janzen, Steinbach, Manitoba.