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Mourning a beloved educator
Merlin Epp, a tireless educator known for his dedication in the Federal Way School District, died Oct. 9 of heart failure related to diabetes. He was 69 years old.
Epp spent nearly 40 years teaching in the district, with most of his time at Federal Way High School. There, he headed the schools history department and shaped its curriculum by introducing elements such as a humanities class.
He had a magic touch with kids, said Joe Gotchy, a retired teacher, former colleague and close friend. He was a very principled, very humane person. Hes one of those figures that absolutely stands apart from the rest.
Epps involvement in education spanned beyond Federal Ways borders. He provided priceless leadership to the Washington State Leadership Camps as well as the Association of Washington School Principals, and established himself as an influential figure in education.
In 1976, Epp launched the East Coast tour to coincide with the nations bicentennial. Every spring for the past 34 years, he and a group of students would embark on the ultimate history lesson, traveling to sites in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. He kept the tradition going after his retirement in 1999.
For the past few years, he volunteered at the kindergarten class taught by his wife, Jeanne, at Lake Dolloff Elementary School.
He was a real grandfather figure for a lot of those little kids who didnt have a man in their family. They just adored him, said Jeanne Epp, Merlins wife of 46 years. The couple had a son, Shaun Epp, and daughter-in-law, Jennifer; son Jay; and a daughter, Jill, and son-in-law Cliff McCloe.
He was very passionate about teaching, Jeanne Epp said of her husband. Every moment was a teaching moment.
Known as the voice of the Eagles, Epp served as the announcer for Federal Way High School football and boys basketball games.
In fact, he backed up his love of music with a commanding bass singing voice that turned heads everywhere. On more than one occasion, Epp performed The Star-Spangled Banner at Seattle Mariners games when they played the New York Yankees his favorite baseball team.
One of Epps prouder accomplishments in life came in the mid-1980s when he was asked to sing in the Dome Room at Monticello, the famous Virginia mansion designed and built by former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. At the request of a historian with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, Epp delivered the tune Old Man River in his naturally rich trademark tone during that days sunset. The event made a little history itself: Epp is believed to be the first person to sing or perform in the Dome Room since Thomas Jefferson played a violin there, Jeanne Epp said.
As a voracious reader and lifelong learner, Epps enthusiasm for education was contagious to anyone who went near him. He had a huge circle of friends and earned widespread respect for his efforts to open educational doors.
Ive never known a man with more passion, said friend and former teaching colleague Bill Harris. Whenever I think of Merlin doing something, it was always done with so much passion that you have to admire.
A public memorial and celebration of Merlin Epp will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, at Plymouth Congregational Church, at 6th Avenue and University Street in downtown Seattle. To learn more, e-mail Jill McCloe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the American Diabetes Association. To learn more, visit www.diabetes.org.
Donations can also be sent to: Association of Washington School Principals, Merlin Epp Memorial Fund, Cispus Learning Center, 2142 Cispus Road, Randle, WA 98377. To learn more, contact Susan Fortin at email@example.com or call (360) 497-5323.