Like so many others I was shocked and saddened last week to hear about the passing of long-time popular Ponoka citizen Mr. Bob Hepp at the age of 65 years. After being employed at the Leduc Co-op in the 1980s Bob was transferred by the Federated Co-operative to the staff of the new Ponoka Co-op Shopping Centre located along 48 Ave.
Bob and his wife Debbie were very excited to get settled into their new home in this bustling and friendly community, and over the following busy and active years the happy couple would welcome their children Michelle and Courtney. Together as a family they would make many new friends as well as getting involved in countless sports, school, social, and recreation activities, and also became keen volunteers and avid supporters and participants in year-round special events, projects, and causes throughout the town and county of Ponoka.
The Hepp family have always been very active and faithful members of the St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church in Ponoka. I personally had the great pleasure of meeting Bob Hepp at the Ponoka Shopping Centre close to five decades ago! Whether I was picking up the Grocery Department advertisement for the Ponoka Herald or just stopping for a quick coffee or lunch I usually ran into Bob somewhere in that massive store! Once I got to know him he would always stop to offer a friendly hello, and loved to share a good joke, his infectious laugh, and his instant wit and sense of humour, and then he would quickly hustle off somewhere to attend to the hectic business of the day.
After completing his many years of work and dedication to the Ponoka Co-op Shopping Centre, Bob and his wife Debbie would turn their full attention to their newest business venture, which we all have come to know so well as Bob and Company Catering. Over a span of more than three decades countless families, individuals, clubs, and organizations in and around Ponoka and beyond have looked forward to and thoroughly enjoyed an amazing meal prepared and served by Bob Hepp and Company. Whatever the occasion and whether those social and community events were for 50 or 500 people or the Hepps may have been hosting more than one on the same weekend that fabulous crew led by Bob and Deb always made sure that everything turned out great, along with an ongoing guarantee that you would never run out of food and treats! Over the years Bob Hepp and Company Catering have proudly played host and shared their unique culinary and hospitality skills for literally hundreds of events for all age groups and all walks of life. Many of these gala functions were fundraisers, to which the Bob and Debbie and family always happily and very generously donated to the cause.
For those of us who were staff members of the Ponoka Rising Sun Clubhouse in the 1990s, we will always fondly remember looking forward to a visit from Bob in one of his well-used delivery trucks. It was usually after one of his countless year round catering jobs that he would bring in boxes full of culinary treats, both sweet and delicious, which the members and staff really enjoyed, and maybe even got to take some goodies home. Later on Bob Hepp very graciously agreed to drop into the Clubhouse on Wednesdays and help plan and prepare a healthy and bountiful noon hour meal with all the trimmings. This very popular event would become a tradition, with the members, staff, and guests looking forward to dawning aprons and helping out, and then sitting down in a packed club-room for a delightful hour of fine food, fun, and socializing.
Along the way Bob, his wife Debbie and family with the keen support of a very willing group of community volunteers would become involved in the organization and hosting of the annual Ponoka Family Community Christmas Day dinner at the Kinsmen Recreation Centre then later and to this day at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 66 Ponoka. Bob and his dedicated crew would spend countless hours collecting community donations and supplies as well as in preparing the traditional and magnificent meal for this gala December 25 celebration. For many decades this wonderful festive event has played host to several hundred guests and visitors from near and far, who always look forward to a glorious afternoon of endless food, entertainment, treats, keen camaraderie, and good will.
Barry Neath, who managed the Ponoka Co-op Shopping Centre for many years, was very willing to share some fond, funny, and precious memories and moments of those special times working with Bob, as well as from his long-standing and quality friendship with Bob and Debbie and their family.
Bob loved collecting old coins, and he always got the maximum out of his aging Company delivery trucks, which usually became give-aways after he was finished with them.
During his tenure at the Ponoka Co-op Shopping Centre the always popular Mr. Hepp really enjoyed planning staff dinners and hanging out in the cafeteria, and those daily friendly jokes that Bob always played on the Managers and staff were infamous. The young boys and girls who worked on Bob’s night stocking crew really admired the guy and generations of them always came back to say hello and express their appreciation for his kindness and leadership.
During his employment at the Ponoka Co-op Shopping Centre Bob Hepp would promote and eventually build ‘Bob’s Room,’ which became a comfortable place for anyone who were non-smokers or as a much needed location for community meetings.
Bob loved his kitchens, both at the Kinsmen Recreation Centre and later at the Royal Canadian Legion, where he and Deb and their congenial crew have diligently prepared their amazing meals for three decades. No matter how busy it got, Bob would really look forward to and find time to chat with visitors who popped in.
At the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 66 Ponoka there was always a jovial and packed house on Friday nights for Bob’s famous Roast Beef Buffet, the annual Legion Stampede Buffet has always been a rootin-tootin success, and those of us who had the extreme pleasure of knowing him will never forget Bob’s tantalizing Christmas pudding and rhubarb crisp.
Bob never went on holidays, but it was great to see those special occasions when he took the whole family for some sun and fun in Mexico! Bob and Debbie always looked forward with great joy to the arrival of their grandchildren, and no matter how busy their monthly calendar may have been they always found quality and precious time to spend with family and friends
There is no doubt that following this tragic loss there has and will be countless tributes to the very active and successful life of Bob Hepp, who along the way has always very proudly and passionately dedicated his love, his heart and soul, his legacy, and his countless goals and efforts to his family and his community. He will be sadly missed and fondly remembered, but we all need to carry on and cherish the wonderful memories that he left for everyone who had the great pleasure of knowing him!
Our Community: This is a new, semi-regular feature page where Ponoka News will highlight the positive work and contributions individuals or organizations make to our vibrant community. We have a great town and county and many people who make it what it is — let’s celebrate them. If you know a person or group who should be featured in “Our Community,” please contact the editor at email@example.com.