Former state Sen. Mary Ellen Epps, a long-time Republican who represented the Colorado Sprins area, died on June 6 at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. She was 79.
Epps served six terms in the House, from 1986-1998. She then served one term in the Senate, from 1998-2002. She represented the Fountain and Security-Widefield areas.
During her time in the legislature, Epps focused on criminal justice and health care legislation. She received significant attention for pushing a measure dubbed “boot camp chain gang” legislation, which allowed inmates to be shackled with leather straps and chains while cleaning roadsides.
Epps also sponsored bills mandating immunizations for children and automobile insurance penalties for uninsured motorists.
One of her largest accomplishments for the local community involved securing lottery funding for the Widefield Community Center/Widefield School District 3, which helped with the construction of the outdoor pool and more.
She served on various committees during her tenure, including those that focused on adult criminal justice, juvenile offenders and the medically indigent. In 1999 she was chairwoman of the Senate Health, Environment, Welfare and Institutions Committee, currently the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. She also served on the Judiciary and Transportation committees in the Senate.
A former business owner, Epps’ biggest legacy was her years of dedicated service to her community and to the state of Colorado, according to those who knew her.
Her time in office, however, wasn’t always smooth. When she ran for the Senate in 1998, reports emerged that she did not actually live in Senate District 11 at the time. She later explained that she was renting in the district.
Democrats subsequently filed a lawsuit, but Epps won the case after several high-profile Colorado Springs-area Republicans came to her defense. She paid her attorney fees using campaign contributions, according to reports at the time.
Born on Christmas Day in 1934 in Copperhill, Tenn., she later married her husband, Frank M. Epps, on June 4, 1951.
Epps received a Bachelor of Science degree at Colorado Christian University in 1996 and attended Regis University for continuing education in nursing and French. She was also a student pilot.
Epps had a long history with the Republican Party in her community, serving on the Fountain Valley Republican Club, the El Paso County Republican Party and various Republican women’s groups.
Her daughters, Marsha Epps, Kelly Hromas and Heather Segura; three grandchildren: Alyx and Madi Hromas and Justin Segura; and one great-granddaughter, Alessia, survive Epps.
Her husband preceded her in death.
A memorial service was held last Friday, June 13 at Pikes Peak Christian Church, where she was a member and a woman of strong faith. Burial followed at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, 610 Abbot Lane, Colorado Springs, CO 80905, and to Pikes Peak Christian Church, 4955 Bradley Rd., Security, CO 80911.