Reporting Tony Lopez
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — All you have to say is Eppie, and people think of one of two things: The restaurants with his name on them, or the Great Race which continues 40 years later.
No doubt about it, Eppie Johnson’s death over the weekend is a huge loss to the Sacramento region.
Inside an Eppie’s in West Sacramento, the dinnertime chatter centered on the tall, lanky, white-haired man who would pop in every once in awhile.
Eppies had sold his restaurants long ago, but he still offered up advice.
“Sometimes he would say, well, the good thing for french fries is change the oil very often,” said Audrey Lee. When asked if he was nice, she said, “Yeah, and handsome, too.”
Eppie’s good looks paled in comparison to his good deeds.
The founder of Eppie’s Great Race in 1974—the man who made his name in the restaurant business—served up the modern triathlon, with run, bike and kayak legs along the American River Parkway.
The more than $1 million raised through the years goes to help those with physical and mental disabilities.
Empowering people is what this powerful man was all about.
His son, George, says at 85, his dad had slowed down quite a bit, but was still, in his words, larger than life.
“He was a passionate outdoorsman himself,” George said. “He was just one of those guys that got stuff done, and butted a lot of heads, but usually his heart was in the right place.”
“He had a couple of huge milestones this year. He had the 40th annual Great Race, he hit his 85th birthday, and with the donation this past June, we hit the $1 million mark for money donated to therapeutic services. So he had a lot to be proud of.”
He said his dad did have some heart issues in recent years.
The family is working on putting together a public memorial, most likely sometime next week.
Eppie’s Great Race will go on in 2014, no doubt dedicated to the man who started it all.