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Local author to share brother’s Vietnam story in museum program

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Joining with the annual “The Big Read-Wichita,” Bethel College, Kauffman Museum and Newton Public Library are collaborating on two special programs, the first one to be held Sunday, Oct. 16.

As part of Kauffman Museum’s Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum series and The Big Read-Wichita, local author Karen Ross Epp will present “Sharing the Things He Carried: Vietnam Letters from My Brother” at 3:30 p.m. in the Kauffman Museum auditorium.

The 2011 book selection for The Big Read-Wichita is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, a novel based on the author’s experiences during the Vietnam War, and one which frequently appears on reading lists for Bethel College students.

Epp compiled letters and photographs from her brother, Sp 4 Stanley D. Ross of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, who lost his life in 1969 while serving with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, Charlie Co. 2/3, in Vietnam. Epp’s book With Love Stan: A Soldier's Letters from Vietnam to the World is based on those letters – along with recollections from family, friends and fellow soldiers – and quotes from authors including Tim O’Brien.

Ami Regier, Bethel College professor of literary studies, will host the Sunday afternoon program at Kauffman Museum.

“I admire this project of making a book as a memorial for a beloved brother by collecting remembrances,” Regier said. “[Their] mother’s letter is particularly moving. Epp also does some interesting, beautiful writing about the Midwest and insightfully and bravely reflects on her personal experience as someone not from a pacifist tradition who married a pacifist.”

Epp’s program will include readings of selected letters from the book as well as film footage her brother shot with an 8mm camera in Vietnam in 1969. The film was converted to DVD for a permanent display at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo, Iowa, where Ross was chosen to represent soldiers from the Vietnam War.

Epp was born near Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and lived there until she left to attend Bethel College. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Bethel and a master’s degree from Wichita State University and taught in the USD 373 Newton system until her retirement in 2004.

She is currently at work on a new book, a work of historical fiction called Corn Rose. Epp will be available after the Oct. 16 program to sign copies of With Love Stan, which is available for purchase at Kauffman Museum, Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center and Anderson’s Office Supply on Main Street in Newton. (With Love Stan is also now available in electronic form on Kindle.)

The second and final program being organized by BC-KM-NPL partnership for The Big Read-Wichita will be held Tuesday, Nov. 1, 7 p.m., at Newton Public Library. Brad Born, Bethel academic dean and associate professor of literary studies, will speak on “Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried: Standing Vigil as We Read.”

Both programs are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Rachel Pannabecker at Kauffman Museum, 316-283-1612.

The Big Read-Wichita, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, is designed to encourage reading across America for pleasure and enlightenment. The Big Read’s community partners are hosting book discussions, lectures and exhibits across south-central Kansas. For a complete listing of events, see www.bigreadwichita.org.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2011-12. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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