Uncle Hoppy was the youngest and was always the baby of the family. Because my maternal grandfather died when my Mom was 12 and Hoppy around two years old my Mom became more than just a sister to her younger brothers, she was the nanny, babysitter and caretaker while Mama Toe had to work to support the four of them. Until I was 14 we lived in the same town as all my Toler Uncles and Mama Toe.
I was old enough to participate in my Uncle Hoppy's wedding to Mona Struve. Today that memory is replaying itself in my mind.
Hoppy came down with Pneumonia the week before the wedding. There was some talk about rescheduling the ceremony but it became easier to cure disease than change wedding plans. Since Hoppy was living with Moma Toe, when he got sick, Mom brought Hoppy to our house so she could take care of him personally. My brother and I gave up our bedroom gladly for the ailing Hoppy, and our house became Wedding central for a couple of weeks.
Hoppy's buddy from the Army came to be best man for the wedding. Thackeray was a Mormon from Salt Lake City, Utah. I didn't even know what that was nor what it meant. But I got to watch this guy, who was always in a white shirt and tie, very politely refuse the ubiquitous sweet Iced Tea that my family guzzled, as well as the coffee that was alway brewing. He said he had religious reasons. Thackeray stayed with us for a few days and he could not have been a more charming guy. I wondered if I were to give up my childhood addiction to that "crack" Ice Tea, would I become as nice as this guy. Since I still drink iced tea and before I started to write this I had three cups of Expresso, you can see where all that wondering ended up.
Hoppy recovered enough to attend his own wedding although my brother was the stand in groom for the rehearsal. At that rehearsal when the Methodist minister was going over the ceremony my Uncle Marvin (who had a very wicked sense of humor) said, "Listen Reverand, when you get to the part about 'in sickness and in health' you can leave that out cause they already passed that test."
Hoppy stayed in Abernathy and when my family moved to Dallas, Hoppy and Mona bought the house I grew up in. They added on to the house so much that I never recognized it as my house anymore. To take care of his family Hoppy took over the General Hardware store that serviced the farming community of Abernathy. It was a store that offered not only the hardware but ready to wear dry goods. His property on Main street in Abernathy was the virtual heart of Abernathy. After Walmart and True Hardware moved in to Lubbock, only a 20 drive from Abernathy the store began to lose customers. Eventually the store front was turned into an antique shop museum and Music Hall serving pizza and offering the latest country western performers on tour. Hoppy went from retail store owner to show promoter and presenter in his years before retirement.
I took my first plane ride and did my first "road gig" ever in my career for Hoppy. After we moved away Uncle Hoppy hired me to fly back to Abernathy and perform for the ladies night of the civil club he had become President of. It is hard to believe looking at the 3 million miles racked up on American Airlines, that I was 14 years old before I took my first plane ride. Hoppy did not know what he started. We lost Mama Toe in 1985. Marvin the oldest, passed several years ago followed by his wife Hazel a few years later.
After losing two people in my life this week, my sister called to tell me Uncle Hoppy passed away. Walking in Rudosa, NM he had a fatal heart attack. He had no history of any sort of health issues that I was aware of. But like my friend Paul Osborne he did not linger he died instantly, and as I get closer to it, that is exactly the way I would like to make an exit.
Hoppy remained in the town he was born, becoming the exfacto historian of Abernathy. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. To know Hoppy was to love him. He was a wonderful man with a kind heart and gentle presence. He leaves his wife, three daughters, three son-in-laws and a number of grandkids I can't even count.
Rest well Hoppy.