Egon Epp, a local man known for so much more than his daily walks and his fine woodworking skills, was reported missing on the morning of Feb. 4, when he didn’t return home promptly from his routine walk to the post office. Tragically, Epp was found without signs of life several hours later near Navy Hall.
As sad as his death may be, the strength of his ties to our community were made evident in the hours leading up to the grim discovery.
Neighbours rallied and searched with determination and vigour. One Niagara Regional Police officer noted neither she nor her superior had ever seen “so many people just drop everything to help.”
One neighbour recounts speaking to more than people throughout the day, at least half of whom he says were already aware of the search, and many of whom knew Epp, if not personally, at least by sight. “They suggested I look for him on Paffard Street, because that was part of his regular route. They also suggested I try Tim’s [Hortons], because he was a regular there.”
Searchers visited Newark Neighbours in tears, looking for the slight 89-year-old, because he was well-known to the John Street charity. Epp was a passionate woodworker, and would create small toys and other gifts to offer those who relied on the resource at Christmas time.
Says Bonnie Turner, long-time NN volunteer, “He was a wonderful man. I always thought it was too bad he wouldn’t be able to see the looks on the faces of the children who received the beautiful toys he made.”
“My daughter was a beneficiary of a wooden rocking horse as a two-year-old,” says one neighbour who had spent the day walking through fields and woods looking for her dear friend.
NRP officers were out in full force, beginning their search by car at around 10:45 a.m. in and around Epp’s Charlotte Street neighbourhood. They later brought out foot patrols on and around Queen Street. When the much-beloved man had yet to be found by early afternoon, the police began a backyard search, using a grid format and dozens of officers along with K9 patrols, trying to cast a tight net so as not to miss him.
Vic Martens, who owns Epp’s original house in the neighbourhood, refers to him as the King of Charlotte Street. “Egon was one of the last of the old guard,” he says sadly.
Martens recounts that a neighbour came by and informed him about Epp having gone missing. “I immediately looked around my property — I thought maybe he had wandered in to my yard to reminisce, looking for familiarity. I was hoping for that,” he says. “I was hoping for a happy ending.”
Sadly, that wasn’t to be. NOTL fire chief Rob Grimwood says the department was called to Navy Hall for a water rescue —which is likely what stirred rumours of a fire on the historic site.
Epp, a polite and friendly German man, husband and father of three, will be remembered for his kindness and generosity, his woodworking skills, and his immaculate garden. Cosmo Condina, the Epps’ neighbour of 30 years, says Epp and his wife were always together. “They loved working in their garden, and feeding the birds. They had a perfect routine, and they were the ideal neighbours. We lived next to each other for 30 years without a single conflict.”
“He was the perfect little gentleman,” says Martens. “He will be missed.”