For Ken Epp, they broke out the brass band to celebrate his life and it hit all the right notes.

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For Ken Epp, they broke out the brass band to celebrate his life and it hit all the right notes.

Music from a brass ensemble as well as an orchestra of over 75 people filled the air and the hearts of the hundreds of people inside the North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church who came together Sunday to remember Epp, who was the executive director of the Manitoba Band Association (MBA) for 29 years until his death on Oct. 14.

'Leave by a railway track in the Thompson River Canyon (B.C.) if someone is going that way' ‐ Ken Epp's ashes request

Epp, 59, died of colon and liver cancer after a diagnosis that came only a few weeks prior.

John Longhurst, Epp's brother-in-law, said Epp decided to pass on an extensive chemotherapy program after careful consideration of the odds, side-effects and the ordeal he and his family would experience. He chose to spend his final weeks living to the fullest extent possible.

"Ken had a deep sense of peace as he approached death," Longhurst said of Epp, who is survived by his wife Connie, son, Jeremy, and daughter, Karly. "As he told me when we last spoke, 'I've been blessed with a wonderful wife and two great kids.' "

Under Epp's leadership, music instruction through band programs was available to students across the province, and Manitoba became known as a leader in music education.

Sunday's gathering of friends and family included one of his favourite hymns, Praise to the Lord, performed by the orchestra and brass ensemble. It was a song Longhurst said inspired Epp to become a music teacher. In 1977, fresh out of the University of Winnipeg, Epp was hired to create and teach the band program at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute. He held that position until 1986 when he become the MBA's executive director.

"I asked him what he liked about teaching band and he told me 'I liked the opportunity to pass along my passion for music to kids and make some pretty good music at the same time.' He added that it was great to teach some up-and-coming musicians and people who went on to make careers in music," Longhurst said.

"His proudest achievement was, as he put it, 'how we built a sense of community within the band world here.' "

The packed church contained a unique mix of people from the various paths through life taken by Epp who was a longtime basketball official at the high school, university and national levels, the chief umpire and convenor for the Christian Men's Slopitch League and a model-railroad enthusiast with the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club.

"Ken was a significant person, a man of integrity and dedication and his life touched so many others," friend Mary Ann Isaak told the assembled crowd at Sunday's service.

Epp, who loved riding passenger trains across Canada, asked this of his ashes: "Leave by a railway track in the Thompson River Canyon (B.C.) if someone is going that way."

His family stated in the program for his life celebration that they "will be making a point of going that way."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca