Animal science prof regarded as meat specialist dies at 58

Fabiana Torreao

University animal science professor Richard Epley died last week of a brain tumor. He was 58.
Epley came to the University 30 years ago after receiving a doctoral degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia.
For these years, department fellow Alan Hunter associated with Epley daily. The two remained close friends throughout Epley’s tenure.
“He had a dry sense of humor,” Hunter said. “He would say things with a twinkle in his eye. You’d have to be paying attention. If you weren’t looking at him, you’d miss it.”
Epley was one of the nation’s first meat specialists. During his time at the University, he taught a number of meat science classes, coached meat judging teams, conducted research and was involved with extension services.
“Because of Dick’s work in extension, his classroom was frequently not a classroom,” said Gene Allen, former co-worker and one of Epley’s closest friends.
Epley taught students and meat workers at meat counters, sausage laboratories and meat shows at county fairs. He was also a regular columnist for the Minnesota Association of Meat Processors’ newsletter.
A native of Pana, Ill., Epley attended the University of Illinois at Champaign where he received his bachelor’s degree. He later went to the University of Missouri at Columbia where he finished his master’s and doctoral degrees.
Epley was a devoted connoisseur of meat. In fact, Hunter recalled that his friend refused to eat dinner at least 20 times in various restaurants.
The late professor’s acute sense of smell detected odors from pork made from non-castrated pigs. If he caught a whiff of such pork, he sent his plate back to the kitchen.
Away from the University, Epley was an avid golfer.
“He had an absolute passion for golf,” Hunter said. “In the early days, he’d be lucky to even hit a golf ball. But he became an excellent golfer. In terms of an amateur, he was outstanding.”
For more than 25 years, Epley and his wife Joan, to whom he was married for almost 30 years, joined three other couples on a weeklong golf vacation in northern Minnesota.
The four couples played golf for four straight days. This was the first year the other couples went without the Epleys.
“He was missed. He was missed this year,” Hunter said.
Epley was diagnosed with a brain tumor last October. He died Sept. 9 at the North Residential Hospice in Brooklyn Center.
He is survived by his wife Joan.

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