Elvira, born April 25, 1922, in Mankato, died September 3, 2023 at her Lake Crystal home. Her husband, Henry preceded her in death. Vera taught in St. James and Sleepy Eye.
A detailed obituary will be updated at a later date.
Elvira Grace (Jones) Epp, “Jonesy,” was born on April 25, 1922, at her Grandmother Jones’ home on Lewis Street in Mankato, Minnesota. Her parents were Martha Elizabeth (High) and Owen David Jones. Elvira, called “Vera” or “Vir,” died at her Lake Crystal, Minnesota, home on September 3, 2023.
Vera attended Judson School, Judson, Minnesota, through tenth grade. She graduated class valedictorian, Lake Crystal High School Class of 1940. She met Henry D. Epp at Mankato Teachers’ College. Vera quit college in 1943.
Vera married newly commissioned United States Naval Aviator Ensign Henry D. Epp on July 10, 1943, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Henry was transferred to Miami, Florida, for additional military training. Vera found a job.
After an extensive interview, the restaurant owner told Vera she would be the only waitress allowed to serve his friend. Vera described the friend as “…a very friendly person, polite, soft spoken, good looking.” After weeks of interesting conversation and generous tips, the friend revealed his identity: Mr. Al Capone.
Henry was deployed. Vera returned home to the Jones farm in rural Lake Crystal. When Gloria Jeanne was born the summer of 1944, Henry, the Landing Signal Officer, was fighting on aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nehenta Bay, World War II Pacific Theater.
After the war, the Epp family lived in Tracy, Minnesota, then moved to the University Village in St. Paul, Minnesota. Vera found a job soldering hearing aid components. The Epp family moved to New Ulm, Minnesota, in 1952. Judy Lee, age seven, was adopted in 1954. Judy (Epp) Olson’s children are Everett Thomas Howard Jr., Melissa Olson, and Sven Olson.
Vera was active in the New Ulm community. Her contributions to the First Congregational Church, renamed the United Church of Christ, were diverse. One Saturday evening, late 1980’s, Vera was washing dishes, twelve dozen cookies cooling on the kitchen counter. She noticed a chunk missing from the wooden spoon used to stir cookie dough. “Candling” each cookie was futile, a splinter of wood indistinguishable from a chocolate chip or a piece of walnut. Begin again. At church Sunday morning, twelve dozen freshly baked cookies were plated for U.C.C. fellowship.
Vera participated in numerous service and social organizations, the Crescendo Study Club a community service group. Chairwoman for their annual Christmas project, Vera worked closely with Brown County Social Services. She coordinated procurement and distribution of dozens of “wish list” gifts given anonymously to deserving people.
Vera returned to college in 1958 to expand her teaching certificate to a teaching degree in elementary education. She received her three-year diploma in 1959 and her bachelor’s degree in 1962. Vera began her 26-year teaching career in 1959, teaching fourth grade at St. James, Minnesota. 1966-67, Vera did graduate work in reading at Mankato State and the University of South Dakota.
Of 175 applicants for a National Defense Education Act scholarship, Vera was one of 35 recipients, the program designed “…for teachers who are educational leaders in their schools.” She attended a reading institute at the University of South Dakota from June 13 to August 5, 1966. As a Reading Specialist, she helped many “non-readers” read.
Vera and Henry parented 21 foster teenagers, mostly boys. The first foster child was welcomed into their home in 1968. In addition to a daily commute and teaching full time, from 1968-1981, Vera nurtured, clothed, fed, and tutored each of the 21 foster children. She said, “There’s no such thing as a bad boy (or girl).”
1970-1981, Vera taught fifth grade in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. 1981-1985, she was a substitute teacher in New Ulm, Minnesota, schools. In 1983 Elvira and Henry D. Epp received Mankato State University’s Distinguished Alumni Humanitarian Award.
Vera retired in 1985. Vera and Henry continued to teach foster parenting classes for a nine-county area. Reflecting on her retirement, Vera wrote, “…retired with half as much money and twice as much husband.” In 2006 Vera moved to Lake Crystal, Minnesota.
On Sunday, September 3, 2023, Vera died at the age of 101 years, four months and eight days. Vera was preceded in death by her father Owen D. Jones (1989), nephew Gregory von Ohlen (1989), grandson Everett Thomas Howard Jr. (1991), mother Martha Jones (1995), husband Henry D. Epp (2005), sister Ardella von Ohlen (2013), brother Eldon D. Jones (2015) and brother-in-law Lynnis von Ohlen (2018).
Vera will live in the memories of daughter Gloria Jeanne Epp, sister-in-law Helen C. Jones, friend Jessie (Mark) Berdan, friend Cheryl Easterday and Sheltie Kristie. Vera will also be remembered by many von Ohlen, Jones and Epp relatives, friends and neighbors.
Private memorial and burial services were held Wednesday, September 20, 2023. Elvira Grace (Jones) Epp rests in Jerusalem Cemetery, rural Lake Crystal, Minnesota
Vera requested memorials be given to organizations that shelter and rescue dogs, the memorial designated for dog care.