Even months before his death, Herb Epp was going out of his way to help people.
First elected to city council in 1968, Epp served three terms as Waterloo’s mayor before moving on to represent the former riding of Waterloo North at Queen’s Park for four terms. He was most recently mayor of Waterloo from 2003 to 2006 but when his career in politics ended in 2006, Epp didn’t stop serving.
In 2009, he became chair of the board of directors of the Canadian Landmines Foundation (CLMF), an organization founded following the signing of the Ottawa Treaty, which banned anti- personnel landmines. And according to John English, a veteran member of the Foundation’s board of directors, it wasn’t a moment too soon.
“If he hadn’t of stepped in when he did, it would’ve closed down,” said English, explaning that before Epp got involved, administrative costs were beginning to outweigh donations and the organization was moving down an unsustainable path. “Everybody on the board knows that without Herb, the organization would be dead.”
English explained that immediately, Epp was able to raise money for the foundation to increase its work funding demining and victim support projects in Af- ghanistan, Mozambique and Cambodia, among others. Epp was also instrumental in working out an agreement between the CLMF and the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Strategies (LCMSDS), which moved the organization’s hub to Waterloo, drastically reducing cost and allowing for more money to be put into donations.
“Herb was very good at bringing people together and getting them to work to- wards a common goal,” said Geoff Keelan, a PhD candidate at the University of Wa- terloo who works at both the LCMSDS and the CLMF.
“In Waterloo, he had a lot of connec- tions, which helped us enormously with fundraising. He always knew who he had to talk to or how to get people to come out to events.”
“He was the best fundraiser I’ve ever seen,” added English. “There was certainly no one else like him in Kitchener- Waterloo.”
Even at the end of a long and successful career in politics, Epp’s passion wasn’t lacking when it came to the CLMF. “I think throughout his life he was very much involved in the community, always concentrating on giving back to people,” said Keelan. “He always seemed inspired to help out and keep supporting the issue.”
Remembering a fundraising dinner Epp organized that raised over $40,000, English could see that it was simple what made Epp so successful in his many endeavours.“He was tenacious,” English said with a chuckle. “Herb just put so much life in it. He used to drive me crazy with phone calls, telling me I had to be doing this or that, and he’d always say ‘well you got me in there.’”
But above all, the CLMF is yet another area in which Epp was an inspiring figure. “He made people feel good about doing good. I guess that’s the key to it,” said English. “We’ll miss him enormously.”
English added that a scholarship will be set up at WLU in Epp’s memory, aimed at students working in international areas.