The first Friday night dinner held at the Ponoka Legion Branch No. 66 since the COVID-19 shutdowns began was a tribute to late chef Robert ‘Bob’ Hepp, who passed away on May 27, 2020.
“Little did we know that Friday night early in March that we would not be meeting again until October,” said Sybil Evans in her address on Oct. 2.
“And certainly, we had no idea that that would be our last supper with out ever-congenial, and dearly loved chef, Bob Hepp.”
Hepp’s family, friends and community members who remember him fondly gathered in the Legion, socially distanced, to pay tribute to Hepp, who was a big part of the Ponoka community.
Suppers at the Legion were prepared by Legion members until then-Legion president Evans invited Bob and Co. Catering to become their in-house caterers in 2015.
Evans said news of the “tantalizing meals” quickly spread, and the suppers were transformed from events with around 60 attendees to well over 100.
Hepp’s talents for cooking benefited the community in other ways as well — many groups were given leftovers.
“So many groups benefited from Hepps’ generosity: Rising Sun Clubhouse, the food bank, FCSS, Victim Services, the Youth Centre, St. Augustine’s parish, other churches in town, Centennial Centre, the Stampede Association and churches and groups in Maskwacis, to name a few,” said Evans.
Hepp was also the coordinator of the Community Christmas Dinner,
“Bob stepped up to the plate, pardon the pun,” she said.
“Who can know how many folks benefited from the kindness of those many community Christmases? Not only recipients, but also volunteers.”
He could also be counted on to arrange refreshments for countless Legion events, as well at Remembrance Day noon meal, St. Patrick’s Day and Stampede week meals.
Evans says the Hepps were adept at shopping at finding the best deals, and were known on a first-name basis with suppliers from Red Deer to Camrose.
She also recounted his penchant for giving away pails of soup, and his philosophy of butter as an essential ingredient, and that his wife Deb was needed to “make many of his miracles work.”
“Bob left way to soon,” Evans said, in conclusion.
“He accomplished much in the time he had with us. We miss him and we will continue to miss him, but his many acts of kindness, genuine acts of caring and unselfish giving were not in vain; his time spent with us left our Legion a much better place.”
A memorial scholarship has been set up to honour Hepp. A student who is pursuing further education in culinary arts will be awarded in June, 2021.