‘King of Fairfield’ D’Epifanio remembered for work, passions and friendship

Fairfield City Councilman Ron D’Epifanio, former city mayor, dies after a brief illness. He was 78. FILE PHOTO

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Fairfield City Councilman Ron D’Epifanio, former city mayor, dies after a brief illness. He was 78. FILE PHOTO

It’s hard to define former Fairfield mayor Ron D’Epifanio.

He was a Marine, former two-term mayor, avid Ohio State fan, faithful Republican, business owner, long-time youth football coach and ordained minister so he could marry couples. D’Epifanio was also an advocate of everything related to the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Field and passionate friend.

He was in the third year of a third four-year Fairfield City Council term when he died Tuesday following a brief illness. He was 78.

“Grandpa touched thousands of lives through this time here,” his grandson, Anthony D’Epifanio, wrote on Facebook. “He had a huge heart, believed in people and wouldn’t give up on them….”

One person he didn’t give up on is Fairfield’s current mayor, Steve Miller, who said, “He was the one that changed my life.”

Miller said he has a history with anxiety and panic attacks, and in 1995 had a hard time leaving his house.

“At that time, Ron found out from a mutual friend and came over to my house and basically forced me off the couch,” said Miller, who served with D’Epifaino on City Council. D’Epifanio was the one who got Miller involved in the Fairfield community and convinced him to run for City Council.

“From there, it is where it is today,” he said. “I don’t know what my life would be like without my influence on it.”

Born in Columbus, D’Epifanio moved to Fairfield in 1976 and was a resident of the city for more than 40 years. He became involved in his community, from coaching youth football to serving on city boards and committees before turning toward City Council.

D’Epifanio won a contested 1995 election to represent the city’s Third Ward and was re-elected as an unopposed candidate four years later. Term limits forced him to sit out for two years, but D’Epifanio ran for mayor in 2005 in a close election. He won by five votes over Howard Dirksen, who served with D’Epifanio on City Council, after an automatic recount.

Term limits again forced D’Epifanio to sit out of office after the 2013 election. He didn’t seek another election until 2017 when he was re-elected to City Council, this time as an at-large member.

Miller said D’Epifanio has “done so much good for so many people.” He said he was “relentless” on the city building a youth football field on Groh Lane. Youth football was another of his passions, having coached youth for five decades. In 2003, he received the National Youth Football Coach of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Youth Football Association.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones called D’Epifanio the “King of Fairfield” because the man known as “Depper” to his friends had an ear for what people thought in the community.”

“Depper was the guy you could call to get counseling from and ask for his advice. And he’d give it to you,” Jones said. “That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”

The sheriff said many in Butler County politics today are there because of D’Epifanio.

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D’Epifanio was also an avid supporter of the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Field and coached his adult daughter’s softball team with the Therapeutic Recreation for the Disabled.

“He supported every single thing we ever did,” said Kim Nuxhall, son of the late Hall of Fame Reds pitcher and announcer Joe Nuxhall. “Ron didn’t say ‘no’ to anything, and always believed what we did and supported what we did.”

D’Epifanio was instrumental in bringing Hamilton and Fairfield’s two city councils together for a joint meeting in October 2007 to rename a shared street in honor of Joe Nuxhall, a month before the Cincinnati Reds legend’s death.

“I’m going to miss Ron … a true go-giver,” Nuxhall said. “We’re so grateful for all his support of dad and dad’s career when he was living, and everything afterward. The legacy. Ron was certainly a part of the legacy team, no doubt.”

D’Epifanio was also a champion for those who served in the military. As mayor, D’Epifanio made every effort to honor those who served.

D’Epifanio is survived by Patty D’Epifanio, his wife of 54 years his daughter, two sons, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Kay, who died in a car accident.

The Ron D’Epifanio file

• Elected to Fairfield City Council in 1995, 1999 and 2017

• Elected as Fairfield Mayor in 2005 and 2009

• Served on Fairfield’s Charter Review Committee and Planning Commission

• Coached youth football for five decades and honored in 2003 by the National Youth Football Association

• Married for 54 years to Patty D’Epifanio and is father to three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was proceeded in death by his first wife, Kay, who died in a car accident.

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