Charles Russell “Hop” Hopson, Metropolis, whose lifetime of service to his country and community spanned decades, died Friday at Superior Care Home in Paducah. He was 101.
His full obituary appears on page 2 in today’s Planet.
Hopson was a fighter pilot in WW II. He enlisted in the Navy 79 years ago, on August 25, 1941, and remained on active duty through November 1945. He was a member of the reserves from that point until February 1967, when he retired as a lieutenant commander.
During his civilian life, he wore many hats. He was a coach, a teacher, a driver education instructor and a principal at Metropolis High School during his long career in education. He was also an avid golfer and a member of the Metropolis Country Club.
Dave Park, a long-time family friend, remembers Hopson’s affiliation with the driver’s education program that he started.
“He taught there at the high school and was a coach. He taught various classes but mostly driver training when I was in school,” said Park.
“Most of the students that will remember him were a little scared of him,” he said, noting he may have had a bit of a temper. “But he taught you to drive.”
Like Park’s father, and many WWII veterans, Hopson did not talk about his experiences in the service.
“The only thing he ever told me was, one night, ‘I got to where I didn’t want to make friends anymore. They’d go out ... and just not come back, ‘ “ Park said. “My dad was the same way, he would never say a word about it.”
Park also remembers Hopson and his late wife, Marilyn, helping to look after his mother.
“She (Park’s mother) lived in a little addition on the north side of town by herself after dad died and they would check on her. If we couldn’t get her on the phone, or if she couldn’t answer for some reason, they’d go down there and check on her (they lived nearby). And, they’d just go down to make sure she took her medicine.
“That family was always doing something for mom.”
Park laughs when he remembers something he found out about Hopson a decade ago.
“Something most people don’t know about him, he taught the men’s Sunday School class at the Presbyterian Church for more than 20 years,” said Park.
“And, I didn’t know until about 10 years ago, we were talking about the kind of funeral he wanted. He wanted Louis Brinker, who was a Baptist preacher to do his funeral. Louis passed away before he did.
“I said, Hop, why would you get a Baptist to do it and not a Presbyterian? And, he said, ‘well, I’m a Baptist.’ He had gone there, raised his family in that church, taught Sunday School, be he never joined. I looked in the record and sure enough, he never joined.”
Hopson has just recently received a unique token of gratitude for his military service for his 101st birthday — a Quilt of Valor.
He was pleasantly surprised when his daughter, Jan Hopson Vance, presented him with a quilt emblazoned with patches from his Navy squadron, the Red Rippers, that he fought with during World War II. The Red Rippers are still active and sent four patches to be put onto the quilt.
As an organization, Quilts of Valor works to “cover Service Members and Veterans touched by war with comforting and healing” through handmade quilts. The project has presented just over a quarter million quilts to veterans across the nation since starting in 2003.
Diane Block, a colleague of Hopson’s daughter in the Fort Massac chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) and a member of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, appliqued those patches to the quilt she had made for the veteran.
Rita Park, the vice regent of the NSDAR chapter, was overjoyed to be a part of this project paying tribute to Hopson.
“It’s something that we wanted to do to honor our veterans as someone who has served their country and community,” she said. “Hop did both. We were very proud of him and we wanted to honor him.”