Friends and family gathered in Penticton last Friday to celebrate the life of a man who had a very positive impact on the economy in the South Okanagan.
A memorial service was held at Vineyard Church for Chris Epp, 54. The former owner of West Coast Leisure Homes died on Jan. 24 following a 14-month battle with cancer.
Stepson James McKitrick said even though Epp was an entrepreneur who at one time employed over 200 people, he always made time for his highest priority: his family.
“He taught my sister (Bridget Gillberg) and I the value of hard work, being responsible to those you work with, and for me, personally, he was always inspiring because in every situation he always took the high road no matter how it made him look,” said McKitrick.
Epp started with a small factory on Cherry Avenue called Trav-l-mate, a family business he took over from his father. Okanagan Manufacturing came up for sale and Epp amalgamated it with Trav-l-mate to become West Coast Leisure Homes. Epp also owned Country RV on Westminster Avenue and several other RV companies in Kelowna and Alberta. He purchased Penticton Fabricating so he could produce his own steel frames for the units and later sold it to Brad Harder when West Coast Leisure Homes shut down. Epp at one time had a manufacturing company in La Grande, Oregon, producing campers as well.
Art Isted said he had just been laid off from Moduline when he went over to Trav-l-mate looking for work and Epp hired him a few days later. Isted was the 13th employee on the payroll, the company grew quickly from there.
“Chris was an excellent boss, I worked for him for 20 years. He was a man of high integrity and the community benefitted from his business very much,” said Isted. “His family was everything. When his grandkids came by, Chris would have a great big smile and his face would just light up.”
Isted last saw on Epp on Dec. 2 during a visit in Penticton. “I asked Chris if there was anything he would like to do that he hadn’t done. He said he would like to go to divinity school. He loved God very much, and his faith was very important to him,” said Isted.
When Epp had downtime, he spent much of it outdoors. McKitrick said his stepfather loved downhill skiing, waterskiing and flying his airplane.
“He was always a very positive man and a cheerleader when he was trying to get his friends to either waterski or downhill ski. He would stick right by you until you got it. I got my love for the outdoors from him,” said McKitrick.
He also played piano and was a deacon at the First Baptist Church in Penticton for a period of time. Epp often volunteered his time and donated to local churches and his alma matter Trinity Western University. Born in Swan River, Manitoba, Epp moved to Penticton in the early 80s and later moved to Abbotsford.