Detroit Free Press
Rev. William Hopper: Advocate for refugees
November 11, 2003
BY JEANNE MAY
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
The Rev. William F. Hopper, pastor of St. James Lutheran Church in Detroit, died of injuries he received in a car accident Friday in Livonia.
He was 53 and lived in Livonia.
Since interning at Reformation Lutheran Church in Detroit in 1973, he had been associated with four other metro churches.
But his reach went far beyond the churches he pastored. He set up a soup kitchen in Detroit and traveled tirelessly to southeast Asia to help with the resettlement of refugees from the Vietnam War.
It started when a church that had helped his soup kitchen at St. Andrew Redeemer Lutheran Church in Detroit sought his help with sponsoring a family.
"So Redeemer, an inner-city African-American congregation, sponsored a series of families who had been disrupted by the Vietnam War and were in refugee camps in Thailand," Rev. Hopper's ex-wife, Joy, said Monday.
"Out of that he became more involved and began traveling to . . . assist in expediting resettlements."
Rev. Hopper was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, and earned a bachelor's degree at Ohio University and a master's of divinity at the Hamma School of Theology, Columbus, Ohio.
During his internship, he began a lifelong love affair with Detroit. He accepted his first church job as associate pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Detroit in 1978.
In 1981, he became pastor at St. Andrew Redeemer, near Linwood and West Grand Boulevard, then later moved to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Farmington Hills.
Six months ago, he went to St. James.
He was a man of many interests. He built his own harpsichord and played it. He built computers from component parts and made stained glass windows, a couple of which are at St. Andrew Redeemer, a church for which he organized the building.
Shortly after he arrived as pastor, the building was totaled.
"Through a lot of perseverance, he drummed up funds through churches in the area and insurance to construct the present building," his ex-wife said.
"The building exists today -- barrier-free and debt-free."
Survivors include two sons, Aaron and Paul; a daughter, Rebekah; three grandchildren; his father, Philip; a brother, and two sisters.
The funeral will be at 11 a.m. today at St. James, 14450 Ashton Road in Detroit, where the body will lie in state for an hour before the service. Burial will be in Glen Eden Memorial Park in Livonia.
Arrangements are by the Thayer-Rock Funeral Home in Farmington.
The family suggests memorial donations to St. James, 14450 Ashton Road, Detroit 48223.