Tribute to Dr. George K. Epp (1924 - 1997)

Written by Victor Janze
Box 1509
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, Yasykovo.

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 time.

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 his initiative.

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.

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