John William Eppich, 97, of Farmington, passed away on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, in Farmington. He was born Nov. 15, 1916, in Mancos, Colo., to John Eppich and Mary Meditz Eppich, both emigrants from the German speaking region of Gottschee, which is now part of Slovenia. His father passed when John was 11 years old from miners lung, and his mother married John Wade, and the family moved to Fruitland, New Mexico.
A graduate of Kirtland Central High School in 1935, John attended the University of New Mexico in 1936, where he studied engineering and played football and basketball. He was a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. He returned to Fruitland after his freshman year to support his mother, who was ill, and went to work for the Fruitland Trading Company, not able to accept the athletic scholarship awarded to him by the University. He joined the New Mexico National Guard and qualified as a sharpshooter. He also was a talented coronet player and joined a dance band playing venues across the area. He gained expertise in Navajo weavings and became fluent in Navajo. He met JoAnne Schleihs, a teacher at Kirtland Central High School, and they married in 1944. He then went to work for the United States Atomic Energy Commission to do field work on uranium mines across the Four Corners until he was hired by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1951. He was a federal inspector for the Bureau until his retirement and worked on the Navajo Dam project and the Navajo Irrigation Project construction from its initial stages to final completion. He provided volunteer services for several years after his retirement to the Farmington Police Department.
He and his wife JoAnne were members of the Audubon's Society Bird Club in Farmington, participating in many bird counts across San Juan County. He was an expert wood maker, and his furniture and utensils are held in high regard for their craftsmanship.
He was preceded in death by JoAnne, his wife of 58 years; his brother, Joseph Eppich of Kirtland; his sisters, Rose Watts of Albuquerque, Frieda Miller of Albuquerque, Anne Duran of Albuquerque, Joan Loleit of Farmington and Mary Charters of Mesa, Ariz.
He is survived by his sons, John Douglas Eppich, of Champaign, Ill., Dennis F. Eppich of Iowa City, Iowa, David P. Eppich of Durango, Colo., Jennifer A. Katebini of Chantilly, Va., and R. Dean Eppich of Plano, Texas. He is also survived by his older sister, Getrude Etchart of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Jean Raterman of San Antonio, Texas; six grandchildren, John Katebini, Dr. Heather Kim, Lindsay Abshagen, Meghan Peeples, Tina Eppich-Meneely and Joseph Martin; and numerous great-grandchildren.
A rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 28, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 414 N. Allen Ave. in Farmington.
A Mass of Christian burial will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 29, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, with Father Anthony Dike as celebrant.
Interment will follow in Greenlawn Cemetery, and lunch will then be served in the parish hall.
Pallbearers are Jack Wethington, Chris Jaquez, Wayne Eppich, Jason Salazar, John Buckles and Joseph Duran.
The family is asking that in lieu of flowers or gifts, donations are made to the UNM Scholarship for San Juan College Honors Program Transfer Students. Contact the UNM Foundation at 505-277-4503 or the San Juan College Foundation Office at 505-566-3204.
John's care is entrusted to Brewer, Lee and Larkin Funeral Home, 103 E. Ute St. in Farmington, 505-325-8688. Those who wish to express their condolences may do so at www.serenityandcompany.com.