It is truly the end of an era in La Vernia.
On Friday the community will bid farewell to Ewald E. Koepp Jr. -- more popularly known to one and all as “Junior” Koepp -- a loving father, grandfather, husband, and son.
“Somebody like that you don’t think about passing because they’re always there,” recalled Susan Richter, with the La Vernia Historical Association. “... He cared about La Vernia.”
Born in 1930, Junior Koepp’s roots ran deep in the community he loved. Of course, he’s most often associated with the auto dealership that bears his family name, an anchor of the city’s business community and one of the oldest businesses in Wilson County.
But his legacy extends beyond Koepp Chevrolet. A former La Vernia Bear football player, he was a lifelong proud Bears supporter. His father fought to pass the $30,000 bond to build the first La Vernia school, and Junior carried on that legacy, fighting to have F.M. 775 built in 1975, Richter said.
“He was a force to be reckoned with,” recalled Mary Bordner, a retired La Vernia educator. “If there was anything to be done, he was there to do it. ... He had his own style.”
“Community was very important to him,” said Shirley Gorzell, a 26-year employee of Koepp Chevrolet. “He tried to make things better for the community.”
A strong-willed man, Gorzell said Koepp never let anything get him down, even after having a kidney removed.
“... he was supposed to be at home, but instead was at the office,” she said. When she asked him why he wasn’t at home, he responded, “Shirley, I am at home.”
He looked out for the best in folks, said Debbie Murray, another longtime employee.
“He was a true pioneer in the community -- whether it was business or Christian or political,” Loyce McCarter said of the man who was the first chairman of the Wilson County Republican Party.
A fellow former mayor, Harold Schott, offered fond memories of Koepp, who would visit Schott at City Hall, “... to tell me all the things I was doing wrong and was never shy about sharing his suggestions ...”
“Over the years we learned to separate business and pleasure and I enjoyed visiting with him at his ranch,” Schott said, where Koepp shared his extensive knowledge of La Vernia’s past. “He was a lore of history and fishing stories. ....”
“Mr. Koepp did much for La Vernia and was a true icon,” he said. “I will miss him.”
La Vernia has lost one of its finest,” said Councilman Jennifer Moczygemba. “... He was a forward thinker and developer of business for this great community. His heart and soul will live here for generations to come.”
“He would come in from feeding cows and shredding to attend meetings,” said Jennifer Kolbe with the La Vernia Municipal Development District. “He always had hope that this community would thrive and grow. ... They just don’t make men like that anymore.”