Gerald “Hoppy” Joseph Hopsicker passed away Nov. 16, 2017, at his home in Hood River, Ore., surrounded by family. Hoppy, as he was known to everyone, was born Dec. 8, 1944, in Utica, N.Y., to Charles Hopsicker and Dorothy Feagin. After graduating from high school, he joined the U.S. Air Force, where he was a helicopter and aircraft mechanic. He was stationed for a time in Panama.
After leaving the military, he returned to upstate New York, where he married and had two children. He worked as a stonemason. After divorcing, he met Ellen Hixson in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he eventually settled. Along with pursuing his stonemasonry, Hoppy took an interest in bobsledding. Hoppy participated in the sport for fun, but also volunteered to help teams who were training in Lake Placid, filling in as a substitute when needed as well as helping in other capacities.
In 1988, Hoppy and Ellen left Lake Placid and hit the road in their Volkswagen van. They traveled from Mexico to Alaska and many places in between, and loved life on the road. Hoppy picked up stonemason jobs in many of the places they went.
Hoppy and Ellen had a particular love for Idaho, where they spent time and made lifelong friends in Sun Valley and Stanley. They served as caretakers on a ranch in Stanley for a time, where Hoppy helped drive cattle and eagerly participated in other ranch duties. It was here that he developed a fondness for the cowboy lifestyle, which he carried with him always.
Hoppy moved with Ellen to Hood River in 2000 to be near her kids. He continued to work as a stonemason on various jobs throughout the Columbia Gorge before retiring a few years ago.
Hoppy was a stranger to no one, a friend to all. There was a simple, straightforward goodness to him that everyone who knew him felt. He befriended anyone who came into his world, with no judgment — from neighbors and acquaintances to the mailman and the meter reader. Selfless to a fault, he once jumped into a frigid New York river at considerable risk to himself to save a dog caught in a whirlpool. While he didn’t often have material gifts to give, he was always quick to offer a helping hand or simple friendship to anyone who needed it.
In the last months of his life, Hoppy’s friends and family often gathered at Ellen and Hoppy’s house on Fridays for what came to be known fondly as “Hoppy Hour.” Even as he suffered through the final stages of lung cancer, he still loved a party, with his family and friends surrounding him and cold beer in the fridge.
He faced his battle with cancer in the same brave, stubborn and uncomplaining way he faced other challenges throughout his life. He will be dearly missed by everyone who knew him.
Hoppy is survived by his partner of 31 years, Ellen Hixson, and her family; his daughter Leslie Congialdi and son Matt Hopsicker; and two grandchildren, Vincent and Liza Rose. A special Hoppy Hour celebration for the ol’ cowboy was held on Dec. 8.
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