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University Of Michigan Cancer Center
1500 East Medical Center Drive CCGC 6-303
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0944
Life Story / Obituary
Her hugs gave us strength, her advice was always wise, and her caring way was evident in everything she did in her lifetime even when her witty personality came with a spark of mischievousness and charm. Lillian A. Hopper was a fiercely strong and loving wife, mother, grandmother, and friend to everyone. We will hold memories of Lillian close to our hearts, and we will never forget such a good soul.
In Lill's birth decade, the 1940's was dominated by the conflict of WWII. The country said goodbye to many men, as they went to fight for our country while those left behind tried to help the war efforts in every way possible. Specifically, 1944 was a year that made history on its own. Wonderful news was shared regarding the G.I. Bill of Rights which enabled millions of those who served the country to receive education or buy a home upon their return. This was also the year in which sunscreen made its debut - intended to protect soldiers at war, but then the benefits were shared with everyone.
Closer to home, the sun reflected brightly as Claire and Thelma (Rustenholtz) Patnode were eagerly anticipating the birth of their sweet baby girl. In 1944, Lillian made her life's debut as a leap year baby on February 29th. She grew up in the city of her birthplace and shared her childhood with Lee, Barbara, and Larry. Her parents worked hard to provide a good life for their four children; her father worked at KVP Sutherland Paper Company where he was the shop steward, and her mother stayed at home to keep the family happy and organized. Later, when the kids were older, she did go to work in the customer service department at Baker Brothers.
Lill lived the typical lifestyle of a teenager as she matured. She loved hanging out with her friends while listening to music, bowling, and living the moments to the fullest. Early on, she liked playing card games too. She especially enjoyed drag racing and motor scooters - the faster they went, the more she liked them! Many of her friends knew her as "Angie" during this time in her life. She eventually completed high school, and she obtained employment working as a co-op at a bank where she later became Supervisor of Bookkeeping.
The bank provided more than a paycheck to Lill, as her heart was also fulfilled when she met the love of her life there, Jim Hopper. He worked at the bank as a computer operator while she was the manager. The two fell quickly in love and rang wedding bells in March of 1967 at the Free Methodist Church in Kalamazoo.
The newlyweds settled into a life of committed love that would last over 50 years! Their relationship was an admirable foundation for the family. In time, they welcomed two children, Christine and Pam, to complete the family. Lill was a very involved mother, and her home was a place all the kids gathered because they felt at home there. Lillian also volunteered at the girls' schools working at the library and helping with the band. When the movie "Grease" was released, she took her two girls, along with her mother, to the theater to see it together, and this remained one of her favorite movies of all time. Her focus was raising her family, but she did go back to work at JC Penney's department store followed by another bank position at Comerica when the girls were older. This particular job afforded Lill the opportunity to search out a suitor for her daughters. She was known to boldly hold up a photo of her daughters if she thought a patron tending to a bank transaction was an eligible bachelor.
Soon, both of her daughters found love on their own, so Jim and Lill looked forward to the gift of grandchildren. Before long, they were blessed with 4 grandchildren; Aden, Chloe, Clarissa, and Connor brought extra sparkle into their grandmother's heart. She adored each of them and looked forward to attending all of their events and visiting with them. Chloe, Clarissa, and Connor participated in Lill's pool therapy, and this made the occasion even better. She enjoyed playing ‘Sorry’ and ‘Yahtzee’ with her youngest grandson, Aden, when he would come for a visit.
Lill was always interested in being with her family, but as her girls moved out, she had more time on her hands. During this period in her life, she worked at Comerica bank and found many activities with which she involved herself. Some days when the winter days were especially harsh, she would curl up to read a romance or suspense novel with some Elvis or Neil Diamond playing quietly in the background. If she caught a Neil Simon movie on television, that would have been a good evening's entertainment - even better if it was "Goodbye Girl." When she was feeling more adventurous, they planned a number of trips. She and Jim traveled to Hawaii for their 25th wedding anniversary. They also went on several cruises together with friends, even in her wheelchair, Jim encouraged her they could to do it. The memories of these adventures stayed in Lill's heart and mind for the rest of her life. With her stroke she found satisfaction helping student therapists practice with her at Western Michigan University. Even after her stroke Jim and Lill went on to do things that others wouldn’t dare to do. They would often go to their daughter and son in law’s house on a lake where they would boat and even put Lill on a jet ski. Jim and Lill soon enjoyed spending winter months in Clearwater Florida. Once they went to Miami to visit their daughter Chris and son in law Gary. They all piled in their dear friends Tom and Ida’s van and went to a Latin dance club called Mango’s where Lill had a little too much Long Island Iced Tea. Ida and her laughed until they cried that night. Even during life’s harshest challenges Lill was ready to go on an adventure and Jim was faithfully their to help her along the way. As she slowed down due to health challenges, she continued to play cards on the computer. She liked playing 'Words with Friends' as well, and her favorite competitors were her daughter, Chris, and her friends, Mary Claire and Traci.
We could always count on Lill to be a good listener, share wise advice, or merely give a warm hug. Lill was anything but boring she had a twinkle in her eye and would often have a witty comment that showed her mischievous fun side. We will miss her presence in our lives. In her incredibly strong ways, she persevered with numerous health challenges for the last 22 years of her life. Sadly, we are forced to say goodbye, for she peacefully passed away on July 27, 2017, at Glen Arbor Hospice Residence in Battle Creek. We will look to one another to find comfort in the memories we shared with Lillian throughout her 73 years, and she will be dearly missed.
Lill was preceded in death by both of her parents, and her older brother Lee. Surviving is her husband of 50 years, James Hopper. She also leaves behind 2 daughters: Pam (Scott) Hoye and Chris (Gary) Mahieu; 4 grandchildren; 2 siblings and many nieces and nephews.
Cremation will take place. Services will be held on Tuesday, August 1, at 2 pm at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo 375-2900 followed by a reception in the Life Story Center.
Memorial donations may be made to Hospice Care of SW Michigan or U of M Cancer Center.