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Erstwhile Handler and Hall of Famer

Freddie Epp Has Died

Nov 08, 2018

Freddie Leroy Epp, age 90, of Marion Junction, Ala., died November 2. He was a well known fixture in the field trial and bird dog community, having enjoyed a successful tenure as a professional trainer-handler and, after his retirement from the “rigors of the road”, was a member of the board of directors of the National Field Trial Champion Association and the Purina Awards Committee.

His achievements and contributions to the field trial pastime were recognized in 1998 when he was elected to the Field Trial Hall of Fame.

Freddie Epp was born in Marion Junction, Ala., in 1927, one of six children, two boys and four girls.

He received his introduction to outdoor pursuits at age six when he and his brother Charles hunted rabbits and squirrels. At age twelve he started bird hunting with his uncle, and got his first pointer pup from his dad at the age of eighteen.

His first exposure to the field trial game came in 1953 at the Central Alabama Club’s trials at Sedgefields Plantation in Alberta, Ala., owned at the time by Clyde Morton who had acquired the tract after the death of Mr. A. G. C. Sage.

Cap’n Freddie, as he was familiarly known, turned pro in the early 1960s. He was running his father’s machine shop in 1969 when he received an offer to manage Magnolia Plantation in Albany, Ga., but that endeavor was shortlived.

John S. Gates, in Leesburg, not far from Albany, in 1969 suggested Freddie accompany him to Canada that summer. Freddie and son Ed headed north to the Gates camp at Broomhill, Manitoba. The next season John Gates was diagnosed with cancer, but he assured Freddie that his son John Rex was going to Canada and Freddie and Ed were welcome to join him.

In 1971 Freddie and his family made the trip on their own and the annual summer trek to the prairies continued for the ensuing forty years.

A few years ago, in Montgomery. Ala., where the Purina Awards presentations were held that year, Mr. Freddie arrived on a Friday afternoon. Over a coffee-Coke interlude, he told of an incident that occurred on the prairies one summer when son Ed was a young boy.

In his sweet southern voice he narrated that he and Ed left the house one morning to work a string of dogs. Mary, Freddie’s wife, arrived near noon with lunch and more dogs. As she swung the truck into the pasture, she scraped the side of the truck on the fence gate or post. Young Ed shook his father’s shirt sleeve. “Don’t be too mad at momma, Daddy,” he said. “She’s the only dog wagon driver we’ve got.”

Freddie enjoyed considerable success on the major all-age circuit. From 1961 to 1986 he won well over 200 placements, among them titles in a number of major stakes including: the All-America Derby Championship (1979, 1980); All-America Quail Championship (1986); Continental Derby (1984), and Continental All-Age Championships (1978, 1983); Florida Open Championship (1980); Georgia Derby Championship (1982), and the Georgia Quail Championship (1980, 1981); the National Derby Championship (1973, 1974); United States Chicken Championship (1980, 1981), and the United States Open Championship (1979, 1980), to name but a few.

The names of the dogs with which he was successful reads like a who’s who from the 1970s and 1980s: Blackbelt, Chickaboom, Just A Nip, Karate, Merryway Blackbelt, North Bay Breeze, T’s Lemon Drop, Jedi Pilot, Nugent’s Daisy Duke among them.

Mr. Freddie won the Purina Award with Blackbelt for the 1979-1980 season. The white and black pointer male was owned by Dr. W. O. Pardue of Fairfield, Ala. Blackbelt was also the sire of 108 winners that accumulated 829 placements, and was elected to the Field Trial Hall of Fame in 1987.

His judging assignments covered a wide gamut — from Canada to Florida, California and Hawaii. At the time of his election to the Field Trial Hall of Fame, he was a member of the judiciary at Grand Junction, Tenn., for the National Championship.

Freddie was predeceased by his son Roy. He is survived by his devoted wife Mary Wood Epp (affectionately known in field trial circles as Miss Woody); daughter Ruthann, and son Ed (Susan); grandchildren Dillon (Jessica), Drew (Emily) and Wyatt (Stephanie) Epp, and Caitlin (Squire) Lee; six great grandchildren, and longtime friend and helper Ricky Olds.

Services were held Sunday afternoon, November 4, in Selma, Ala. Burial followed in Marion Junction.

May he rest in peace.

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