Joseph Clifton Hopwood 1907-1986

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Joseph Clifton Hopwood was born on December 30, 1907 at Egham, Surrey, United Kingdom.  He was the youngest and last child of Thomas Henry Hopwood and Jessie Elizabeth Hopwood (nee Traish).  His siblings were Jack, Dorothy, Laura, and Ernie.

He along with his mother, brothers and sisters emigrated to Nelson, British Columbia, Canada in May of 1913.  His father arrived earlier in 1908.  Joe, as he was called attended Central Elementary School in Nelson.  His mother Jessie suffered from a creeping paralysis a few years after the family arrived in Nelson.  Joe assisted his father Tom operate the family butcher shop on Vernon Street.  Joe was a strong young man and soon held various jobs in the Nelson area in the woods and later, along with brother Ernie, with the Shell Oil Company.  When home, Joe was very good to his mother Jessie, and when needed, lifted her around the house as she could no longer walk.  He was very loyal and loving to his family, always dependable, especially after his father abandoned the family and left Nelson around 1920

 

By nature he was a somewhat quiet person, who nevertheless enjoyed company and loved to tell stories about his life and adventures.  Joe was a very generous person, and always sent welcome flowers and gifts to his sisters and sister-in-laws for birthdays and Christmas.  And of course, he always made sure the nieces and nephews received welcome gifts at Christmas as well.  He would send money to the mothers to chose and buy the gifts.  The children loved “Uncle Joe” for his loving and generous ways.  They loved hearing the tales he would spin when he arrived for a visit.  He took a joyful interest in many hobbies such as reading, photography, fishing and amateur radio.

 

However, he was not a man to be trifled with and showed a temper when urged on and was known to take on other men if he was insulted or treated unfairly.  His brother Jack tells the story of Joe, when working as a construction worker, building the then David Spencer’s Department Store in Vancouver (later Eaton’s and then Sears) in the early 1920’s knocking a man down to the floor below.  Joe lost his job over this incident.

 

During the years of the Great Depression (1930’s) and the lay-offs that ensued, Joe left Shell Oil to protect his brother Ernie’s job, who at this time was married with children.  Joe then spent some years working at first in building construction around Vancouver and then for Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company (CM&S), first at Trail B.C. then from 1937 to 1940  at the “Big Missouri Mine” (Gold) near Stewart B.C., and later after WW II at Yellowknife, NWT and finally along the Kootenay Lake at Riondel B.C.  Initially he was a worker in the large smelter at Trail B.C. and from then on Joe was employed as the “storekeeper” providing goods and services to the mine worker’s families.  He was a gracious man to deal with and he made many loving friends among the CM&S family of workers.

 

Joe joined the Canadian Army in 1940, and at first was assigned to the Service Corps.  During the first year of his service he was assigned to a Vancouver army depot and was allowed to billet out.  He took accommodation with brother Jack and his family at 2905 Quebec Street.  The family was blest with his presence and around late 1941 he was posted overseas to England along with thousands of Canadians servicemen.  Somewhere along the way he was reposted to an armored tank division.  He rarely ever talked about his overseas army life, but we later learned he took part in the invasion of Normandy at Juno Beach on June 6, 1944.  He did not write home too often so we never really knew where he was or what happened to him, except he did write once from an army hospital in Brussels, Belgium.  We had to assume sickness or that he was possibly wounded.  He also recalled that he was near Nijmegen in Holland and billeted with a family whom he came to love and to keep in contact with for many years.

 

He told the story of how the people were very poor and needful on their farm.  He and his buddies acquired an army jeep, buried it in the farmyard and told the farmer not to dig it up until the army had completely left the area.  No doubt the jeep would be a valuable farm vehicle for the farmer and his family.  Upon return to Canada at the end of the war, Joe spent some years at Yellowknife, NWT and his remaining working years at Riondel B.C. until he retired around 1972.

 

Joe married Joan Green around 1960.  Joan’s father was a prominent contractor in Nelson B.C. owning several business and residential buildings. Joe and Joan’s brother George became very good friends, especially after Joan died suddenly at Christmas in 1964.  They shared a cabin at Queen’s Bay near Balfour on the Kootenay Lake.  Joan’s death was particularly difficult for Joe to handle, and he and George spent too much time soothing the pain with alcohol.  After George’s death Joe spent his remaining years in a senior’s home in the Rosemont area of Nelson.  His nephew John Hopwood took special care of him.  Unfortunately, the years on alcohol and heavy smoking caught up with Joe (we assume) and he died on March 20, 1986.  His extended family truly misses his warm smile, his interesting tales and his very generous loving nature. 

 

We all loved Uncle Joe.  Truly, he was a great guy!

 

Submitted by his nephew Farrell Hopwood – August 2006. Revised -- November 2008

 

PHOTOS BY J. C. HOPWOOD

Taken Near Stewart B.C. at the Big Missouri Gold Mine - ca 1939