Multiple Community Groups, Elected Officials and many friends laud Robert Epling as he moves forward to retirement
How do you say goodbye to someone whom has meant so much to so many?
Some comments heard at recent send-offs for this person included from an emotional mother, “without Bob, my daughter wouldn’t be graduating from medical school”. From the local businessman who said, “he made me feel welcome the day I arrived here”. Or the parent who said, “he helped my son become a better person”?
Among the tributes over the last few weeks, the Dade County Farm Bureau, held a special surprise gathering to honor a man that has meant a great deal to the farming community over the years.
It wasn’t a roast per se, but rather a celebration of friendship and outpouring of admiration as the family of Dade County Farm Bureau shared memories and gave its’ best wishes to Bob Epling.
The Farm Bureau conference room was filled to capacity including a very special luncheon provided by Norman Bros. Produce, as Mr. Epling entered the room to this surprise gathering of his farming community friends. Epling, who is Gainesville bound to share the next chapter of his life with his children and grandkids, was visibly moved as his longtime friend and business rival Bill Losner spoke of what Bob has meant to this community for the past 40 years. Losner presented a very imaginative metal tractor seat with a commemorative plaque mounted in the center as a token of appreciation of many years of tireless service to the agriculture industry both as president of Community Bank (now Center Sate Bank) and as a trusted friend to that community.
Many in the room found it heartwarming to see these two titans of the local banking industry stand side by side, as both have done so much for our community.
Bob expressed his heartfelt appreciation as he told stories, some with a tear in his eye and a slight quiver in his voice, and many in laughter, but, all a
selection of his “fondest memories.” According to Epling, there have been many debates and some heated arguments but out of them came compromise which always leads to progress. He expressed that the makeup of our community is in constant change and with past and present leadership, South Dade has always been able to adapt and move forward, further explaining, “there are things changing that we can’t change back, but there are some great things happening. Our service, the way we serve, who we serve and how we serve has got to change. We’re serving a different group and we’ve got different things we’ve got to do. We were preceded by good leadership, we provided good leadership, and I’m sure tomorrow there will be that.”
In all, it was a perfect event with the exception that it ran short of Bob’s favorite…cookies.
In late February the Rotary Club of Homestead, at their annual auction, paid tribute to one of the longest tenured leaders of their club.
At the auction, Epling received a standing ovation when club president Dale Machesic spoke of Epling’s efforts over the years to help raise over $1 million to give back to this community. Much of that money has been distributed to local high school students to help them with their college careers in the form of awarded scholarships. Epling has spearheaded that project since its’ inception many years ago.
Dozens of Rotarians gathered in front of the stage that evening as they joined the hundreds in attendance and stood and applauded the man that lives the Rotary motto of Service Above Self.
Last Thursday night the cream rose to the top as once again, Epling was lead into another surprise gathering of well-wishers and grateful friends. This time it was in his company’s main building on 288th St. to another standing room only crowd of friends, associates, employees, elected officials and dignitaries. One after another spoke of the memories they will always have of this great man. Plaques, proclamations, gifts and more started to pile up as the evening progressed.
Mayor Jeff Porter spoke emotionally of how the City of Homestead proclamation declared March 30th Bob Epling Day in the city. Porter said this was more personal as he knows Bob from his childhood as his mother Maureen Porter worked for Bob at the bank.
Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace eloquently spoke of how Epling has meant so very much to the greater community and how he took a chance supporting Florida City when Wallace became mayor many years ago. Wallace touched on some of the things Bob, both as bank president and civic leader, did for his city over the years. He then expressed a sentiment felt by many in attendance when he said, “Bob, I am most proud to be able to call you my friend.”
Miami Dade County Commissioner Javier Souto spoke of how this very special friend has helped him over the years. Representatives from Congressman Carlos Curbelo’s and Ileana Ros Lehtinen offices praised the man that has, again, helped them in their careers and efforts.
Epling’s career has had numerous connections to college athletics. He was the first graduate of South Dade High School to receive a college football scholarship and over the years gave back to that community by serving on the Board of Directors of the Orange Bowl and National College Football Hall of Fame Committee. Representatives from both organizations were present to thank Epling.
Even Hall of Fame Miami Dolphin All-Pro Defensive back Dick Anderson was on hand to say thank you to the man that has served so unselfishly this community including a recent Orange Bowl donation, championed by Epling, to completely upgrade the facilities at Harris Field.
In a gesture fitting a man who has meant so much to so many, the officers of Center Sate Bank donated $10,000 to the Rotary Club of Homestead to use over the next ten years to start an annual scholarship as the “Bob Epling Scholarship”. Club president Machesic said the money will be added to Rotary funds assuring that this particular scholarship is among the top financial awards each year.
While all wished Bob adieu, many suspect he will be making return trips to the area to finish several unfinished projects in Homestead and the surrounding communities. With that in mind, Bob, be assured “we’ll leave the light on for you.”