An inspirational report on a mini reunion with an old teammate from Richard Botkin. Good to know that classmates are there to support each other when needed. Think about it and thanks to Richard and Sharon for caring.
Until this past Saturday (July 14, 2012), the last time I saw Mike Hopfe was likely along with 411 or so Punahou graduates at the Pearl Harbor Commissioned Officers Club the late evening of our graduation back in May of 1974.
I always remembered Mike as a tough competitor, a good athlete, particularly in wrestling, but especially in baseball. He was perennially upbeat, and brought with him his native charm and good cheer. It was always a better time when Mike was around. In that group—our wrestling team—a wonderful collection of characters– I recall John Tyler, James Kealoha, Skip Berg, Bill Sime and Don Terada, along with coaches Ken Mayo, Bruce Wampold and Bob Tam.
As we have all gone our separate ways I would think of him, as one does with many old friends, and wonder how he was doing. Somehow I managed to learn that he had made a career in law enforcement with the Hayward Police Department, just outside of San Francisco.
With the advent of facebook, the world suddenly got smaller, and many of us have reconnected in ways impossible to ponder only a few years ago. When Sharon (the former Sharon Loomis ’74 and my bride of nearly 30 years) and I learned of his injury and were able to finally locate him, we made a drive down to Concord to visit.
As God is my witness, I do not recall ever meeting up with a man more full of life, grace, and outright joie de vivre. If you are reading this you probably know that not two years ago, after Mike retired from 30 years of police work and along the way rising to the highest ranks in his PD—after working with all sorts of criminal gangs, after doing NINE years of undercover narcotics work, and all the other things professional lawmen do—he had what most of us what call a tragic accident in which he broke his neck and is now a quadriplegic.
When Sharon and I arrived at his care home we were not his only guests. In testament to Mike’s professional standing as a cop, one of his much older, retired comrades was likewise visiting. This gent was 70, and like Mike, had worked the streets and seen all that is ugly, but had also recently survived cancer of the kidney. In chatting with him at length he was full of praise for his younger ‘brother’, crediting him with the resolve it took to overcome the challenges of his own medical condition; telling us boldly that if Mike could do what he did, facing the cancer was a cinch.
We were able to pepper Mike with questions, trying to fill in the 38 years from graduation until now, never allowing him to rest or ask reciprocal questions, we got a picture of Mike Hopfe we never had before. As a former Marine I have always had a special respect for professional lawmen, and I made Mike tell me about his career. Without bravado and in complete humility he began to describe the years working the gangs, the nine years of undercover narcotics work, the exciting things, the mundane. All of it good. All of it meaningful. A little bit of danger. A little bit of excitement. No regrets. A life well lived.
He spoke glowingly of his own Sharon, his bride of 34 years, his four children, his two grandchildren. It was awesome. His enthusiasm for life is unrestrained. He is a man thankful, grateful to be alive. He is a man on a mission that he might not have taken had he not had his accident. This man is special. And forgive me for being unable to adequately reduce to words the best way to describe his uniqueness. For those of us with faith we can get away with calling all of this a ‘God thing’– which does not begin to do Mike justice. You do not need to believe in God though to recognize there is something near unique in the way this man is living his life or playing the hand he has been dealt.
We would have stayed with Mike through dinner this visit except we had to make room for the five others, the third group in three hours, who came to call. I confess to you reading this that Sharon and I went there hoping to bless and encourage Michael Roy, but I will tell you that we were the ones who came away blessed.
We expect to see him regularly. If you are ever in the Bay Area, do yourself a favor: go see Mike. You can also call him. He does not mind being bothered, I already asked him.
4839 Beckham Ct
Concord CA 94521