Stephen I. Hopfe

HopfeI was born in Portland, Oregon on November 6, 1936. My father, Raymond I. Hopfe, was born and raised in Daysland, Alberta, Canada and was of German origin. He arrived in this country in 1923. My mother, Roma F. Henderson Hopfe was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington and was of English, Scotch, and Irish origin. Her family originally arrived in this country in 1643. Mom was a graduate of the Western, Washington State Normal School with a teaching degree. Dad only finished the eighth grade and yet was a math whizz. Dad was a journeyman electrician at the ALCOA aluminum plant in Vancouver, Washington.

We moved to a farm north of Vancouver, Washington in January 1942 where I grew up. My youth was spent working as my father felt that work, work ethics, and self-discipline were virtues. My father had no idea that his many rules and stern discipline would prepare me so well for military service and OCS. I began school in the fall of 1942 in a small three-room school and graduated from Vancouver High School in June 1955.

In December 1953, shortly after the end of the Korean Conflict, I joined the Air Force Reserve in Portland, Oregon as a Camera Repairman and Lab Technician. I remained in the reserve until after I graduated and on 1 January 1956 I went on active duty with the Air Force. Since I had completed my basic training with the Air Force Reserve I was considered a re-enlistee and after three weeks at Lackland AFB was assigned to Keesler AFB, Mississippi where I attended Radar Maintenance School.

After graduating from Radar Maintenance School in November 1956 I went home and married my High School sweetheart, Shirley M. Hodgson. Shortly thereafter I reported to my first assignment with the 757th AC&W Squadron at Blaine, Washington. In June 1957 I was transferred to St. Johns Newfoundland, Canada and the 642nd AC&W Squadron.

With my extra two years of reserve time and an early promotion to E-4, I was able to remain in Newfoundland with my wife for a three-year tour. In January 1960 our first daughter, Amy, was born and in June of that year I was transferred back to Keesler AFB, Mississippi as an Instructor. I taught in the Radar Maintenance School until October 1962. In August 1961 our second daughter, Lori, was born.

My acceptance into OCS was nearly as great a shock as that first day as an OC. Although I was determined to finish OCS I don’t think any of us were prepared for those first few days. Getting used to all the new terminology and our new way of life was quite a shock, to say the least. A month after we started OCS I stepped on a rock while running in the dark and broke a bone in my left foot whereupon I earned the nickname of “Pitter Clomp” from our upperclassmen.

Upon graduation from OCS, I was assigned back to Keesler AFB, Mississippi to attend the Officers Ground Electronic Maintenance school. I completed the school in the spring of 1964 and was assigned to the Eastern GEEIA Region at Brookley AFB in Mobile, Alabama. I was assigned as an Engineering Installation Officer, responsible for many of the equipment installations in the Vertical Assembly Building at Cape Kennedy as well as many other locations up and down the East coast. Little did I know that we were preparing for flights to the moon.

In February 1966 I was reassigned as the commander of TUSLOG Det 150, a TROPO Site at Sahin Tepesi Air Force Station in Turkey. After completing my one-year tour I was sent to Ft. Bragg in North Carolina where I attended the Army’s eight-week Counter Insurgency Operations School.

After a 30-day leave with my family, I left San Francisco, California on May 2, 1967, for South Vietnam. My assignment was as the Communications advisor with AFAT-7 at Binh Thuy AB, RVN some 85 miles Southwest of Saigon. I survived the 1968 Tet Offensive and left South Vietnam June 2, 1968, with orders to attend the Advanced Ground Electronics Maintenance school, again at Keesler AFB, Mississippi.

Upon completion of this school in the spring of 1969, I was assigned as the Chief of Maintenance with the 2020th Communications Squadron, Shaw AFB, Sumter, South Carolina. In April 1971 our third daughter, Becky was born. After about two years I was assigned as the commander of Det 2, 5th Mobile Communications Group in support of the 507th Tactical Air Control Center assigned at Shaw AFB. In January 1973 our fourth daughter, Jenny was born. Then in 1974, I was assigned as an Exercise Planning Officer with Det 9 Tac Com Area at Shaw AFB which lasted until I retired as a Captain on 1 January 1976.

Shortly before I retired from the Air Force, Shirley and I purchased a resort in Maggie Valley, North Carolina (near the Smoky Mountain National Park) which we operated for six years before we sold it in 1980. At that time Shirley and I separated and later divorced although we have always remained friends. Shirley and the girls stayed in North Carolina and I went back to where I grew up in Southwestern Washington. I went to work as a security supervisor with the TROJAN Nuclear Power Plant near Rainier, Oregon where I worked for thirteen years until the Nuclear Plant permanently closed in the fall of 1993, and I retired for good.

Unknowingly, I developed High Blood pressure and in March of 1997 I suffered a stroke which left me unable to use my right leg without the use of a four-legged cane. I find it difficult to travel or do much walking although I can drive some. I live alone and am now spending my time making wooden toys and wood carvings as well as writing a book of family genealogy.

In the fall of 2002, I moved back to Western North Carolina so that I could be near our four daughters and eleven grandchildren. I enjoy our many family gatherings and watching the grandkids grow and grow and grow. They range in age from one month old to nearly eighteen with only three granddaughters.