Bill Hopper, 84, Vincennes

We are brokenhearted to announce that on Tuesday, August 29, 2023, our father, William Ray Hopper, (Bill), passed away at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis.

A lifelong resident of Vincennes, Dad was born on October 26, 1938.  He grew up on Busseron Street, with his parents Donald and Helen (Morton) Hopper and his faithful dog, Mack, who all pre-decease him.

He was a 1957 graduate of Vincennes Lincoln High School.  Dad attended Vincennes University and Indiana State Teachers College (later ISU) both of which honored him as a Distinguished Alumni.  He completed his post-graduate work at Indiana University and the University of Arizona where he was named as a Distinguished Educator.

Dad had planned to graduate college and work for the YMCA as he had for many years throughout high school and college but a twist of fate led him to earn his teaching requirements and student teach at Vigo school.  He was hired into the school system following his year of student teaching which began his 41 year career with Vincennes Community Schools.  He continued to keep in touch with many of his past students and his retired teacher’s “Lunch Bunch” until his death.

Dad was a 5th & 6th grade teacher at LaSalle Elementary when he met his future wife, Karen (Grubb), a first grade student teacher.  He described her as the love of his life and best friend.  They were married for 57 wonderful years.

After 9 years at LaSalle, Dad was asked to become principal at Harrison School and later to moved to Tecumseh.  He served as principal for 30 years at what eventually became Tecumseh-Harrison Elementary.  Under his guidance and with the help of many “amazing teachers” Tecumseh-Harrison went on to be honored by Instructor Magazine as its first ever A+school, earned a National Blue Ribbon School award by the US Dept. of Education, the US Secretary of the Interior Take Pride in America Award, the IN Governors Arts Award, National Council Center of Excellence and Redbook Magazine’s List of America’s Best Schools.  He began an Arts in Education Program and Artist in Residence that became a model for schools across the US.

For his work in educating the students of Vincennes, his personal award of which he was most proud was for Outstanding Contribution in the Field of Reading.  He struggled with reading as a child and it became his passion to help kids find a love of reading.  Dad was named as a Sagamore of the Wabash in 2001.

Following his passion for educating children (and with urging from his wife to develop a program to educate Kindergarten students beyond social skills), Dad created the Letter Shop with the help of teachers and creators who became some of his closest friends.  Children in school districts throughout Indiana began to know him as “Mr. Alpha”.  The success of The Letter Shop led to other Children’s programming including “Let’s Talk About Books”, and “Featherby’s Fables” which was utilized in all 50 states and 10 foreign countries.  Royalties from the programming were used to fund visiting authors in all Vincennes schools.

Dad served his community and state throughout his life.  He was a proud Vincennes City Councilman/president pro-tempore for 8 years.    And also represented his hometown on the Board of Works, Utility Service Board, and the Area Planning Commission to name a few.   On the state level he was a member of the Indiana Principal’s Leadership Academy, and the Indiana Arts Commission.  He instilled the importance of service within each of us.

Following his retirement from VCSC, dad followed his next passion – antiquing with his wife, Karen, as Red Rooster Two.  They loved traveling to procure antique treasures together and taking them to antique shows around the Midwest.  He had a knack for storytelling and loved sharing the history of the items they sold.

The most important thing in Dad’s life was his family.  In addition to his wife, Karen, he is survived by his children Elizabeth (TJ) Meyers of Zionsville, IN, Matthew (Deanna) Hopper, and Tyler Hopper all of Denver, Colorado.  Grandchildren: Mallory Hopper, Santa Barbara, CA; Amelia Meyers, Muncie, IN; Sophie Meyers and Ian Meyers, and great granddaughter Evelynn Meyers, all of Zionsville.  He loved following their academic and athletic achievements and was so proud to share their stories in person and on Facebook.

To say we will all miss him terribly is an understatement.

Graveside services will be held on Tuesday, September 5, 2023 at 11:00am, Vincennes Memorial Park Cemetery.  Online memories may be shared with Bill’s family and friends at Goodwin-Sievers Funeral Home is privileged and honored to be entrusted with the care of Bill and his family.

In lieu of flowers, our family requests donations be made in ‘Honor of William Hopper’ through the Vincennes Education Foundation. The VEF is a 501(C)(3) organization. VEF, 1712 S. Quail Run Road, Vincennes, IN 47591.
The William Hopper fund is being established to support educational experiences for students in his beloved community.