Paul Hopper (paulhopper) wrote,
Paul Hopper

obituary - Rev. William Hopper, Detroit Activist helped Asian refugees

Monday, November 10, 2003

Rev. William Hopper, Detroit Activist helped Asian refugees

By George Hunter / The Detroit News</byline>


The Rev. Hopper

The Rev. William Hopper traveled around the world several times to ensure a better life for political refugees.

Throughout his 25-year career as a Metro Detroit pastor, the Rev. Hopper made many trips to Southeast Asia, where he helped Laotian refugees come to the United States.

Sometimes the Detroit resident bent the rules, said his ex-wife, Joy Smith.

"He went to Thailand, where there were refugee camps full of Laotians who couldn't return to their country because of the political situation there," Smith said. "Sometimes he'd have to pay off officials in order to get exit visas for the refugees."

The Rev. Hopper died Friday, Nov. 7, 2003, from injuries suffered in an automobile accident in Livonia. He was 53.

He was born Dec. 9, 1949, in Chillicothe, Ohio. He earned his Master's of Divinity degree from the Hamma School of Theology in Columbus in 1978.

That year, he was named associate pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Detroit. He became pastor at St. Andrew-Redeemer Lutheran Church in 1981, and spent more than 20 years there.

"The year after he arrived at St. Andrew, the roof collapsed," Smith said. "So he had to raise funds to get a new facility built."

The Rev. Hopper not only got a new church built on Detroit's west side, but he also started a soup kitchen there that served meals to up to 200 people at a time.

He also initiated a program that distributed gifts and food to neighborhood families during the holidays.

In 1985, the Rev. Hopper, his family and members of his congregation traveled to Washington, D.C., to protest South African apartheid.

About that time, the Rev. Hopper began traveling to Southeast Asia to help bring Laotian refugees to the United States.

"He raised funds, got help from other Lutheran churches and lined up families to sponsor the refugees when they got here," Smith said.

Survivors include his father, Philip; ex-wife, Joy Smith; a daughter, Rebekah Hopper; two sons, Aaron and Paul; and three grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. today at St. James Lutheran Church, 14450 Ashton in Detroit.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the church. Burial will be in Glen Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Livonia.

You can reach George Hunter at (313) 222-2027 or

Detroit News
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