It must have been the Irish in Edee Hopp that made her so funny, quick witted, and sometimes sharp-tongued. She inherited—probably from her Irish immigrant Burke forebears—an ability with language that could best be described as Blarney. She knew the words to hundreds, if not thousands of old songs, and would sing them out whenever the music was playing. This gift of gab lasted right up to the last days of her life, despite Alzheimer’s Disease that took away most of her other memories. In her middle years, she could recite whole poems by rote, not the least of which were Robert Service’s The Cremation of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dan McGrew, in their entirety.
In her prime, Mom had movie-star good looks and a penchant for zany humor that evoked a brunette rival to Lucille Ball. She loved doing whacky routines at family gatherings or in skits and shows performed at Sahalie Ski Club, where Spring Carnival would find her singing ribald songs with made-up lyrics wearing crazy costumes, often with one front tooth blacked out.
The Irish in her also gave her a hot temper, and she could quickly go from hilarious to horrific. I can recall times when she yelled at my brother Jerry or me or our father Ed, with such vocal force that the doorbell chimes would ring in reply.
But she was fundamentally a very caring person. Over a lifetime she fostered pets large and small, and welcomed into her home a succession of neighborhood kids. When I was young it seemed that all my brother’s friends, and my friends as well, tended to prefer Ed and Edee’s house as the location to gather and carry on. This extended into my teen years, when several budding rock-and-roll bands rehearsed in the basement with rarely a complaint about noise from the folks upstairs.
Mom cared for family pets large and small, whether they be dog, cat, bird, lizard, or amphibian. I was forever bringing home something from the local tropical fish stores, including an iguana named Iggy who grew into a five-foot-long monster under Mom’s care, and a piranha that became so large on a diet of beef liver that it could have bitten a hand off. Edee also took care of a succession of stray animals. One of my earliest memories is of her throwing bacon out the back window of our housing-project apartment, calling out for poor, broken-winged Cedric the Seagull to come and get it. Several years later, neighbor kids brought her a baby robin that had fallen from its nest. She promptly named him Peepie and had my father dig worms from the garden, which she fed him until he was big enough to fly away. When I was a teenager, she brought home from the beach a weird-looking black bird that had been injured and couldn’t fly. This strange creature, a coot, lived in our basement for a few days until a representative from the zoo and local radio personality Lan Roberts came to take him to a recovery facility.
Her largess extended to people too. My bandmate Tim Turner came to live with us when his relationship with his father turned violent because he grew his hair long, hippie style. She took him in and helped him make it smoothly through his transition from frightened kid to working rock musician. Tim has proudly continued this job for a lifetime with amply expressed gratitude to Edee and Ed Hopp for helping him through his most trying times.
Mom was a pharmacy clerk for Bartell Drugs for most of her adult life, working in downtown Store #1. She sold prescriptions to many thousands of people including a succession of celebrities, sports stars, and socialites who came to town and found they needed one pharmaceutical or another. She only retired from her endlessly intriguing work when my father suffered a mild stroke when they were both 71. Even though this slowed things down, they moved on into a rollicking retirement that included innumerable trips to Hawaii and other stops around the world in the company of their many friends and especially her sister Florence and her husband Ralph Penz. The two sisters were nearly inseparable in later years, and often would break into song together in two-part, perfect harmony. All four of them could be seen cheering from dockside as Jerry Hopp drove his super-hot hydroplane race boat to victory after victory. There were few dull moments in Edee, Ed, Flo, and Ralph’s retirement years.
In leaving this world at age 91, Edee Hopp could look back on a long, full, loving, and often hilarious life. Brava!