James “Jim” Hoppe, age 82 of Hazelhurst, took his final breath on Friday, March 26, at Marshfield Medical Center in Weston. Jim was born on April 13, 1938, in Brookfield. He was the only son of Leone (Tessmann) and Marlin Hoppe.
He graduated from Waukesha High School in 1956 and went to work as a mason in and around the Milwaukee area. He had a passion for hot rods and fast cars and spent many years working as an engine builder for street stock and modifieds for Schleiper’s Speed Shop in Brookfield. Many of the race car engines he helped build were top finishers at Slinger, Beaver Dam and Hales Corners Speedway throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War in 1963 at the age of 24. He served as a crane operator at Ft. Eustis, Va., until 1965, and was never transferred overseas and instead helped load helicopters and parts onto ships heading to Asia. He also helped assemble helicopters and other engines for his unit the 105th Trans Co. His commendations include an Expert ranking in Carbine and Rifle (M-14).
While the Army wanted him to reenlist, he chose to reenter civilian life and restart his career in the trades. He continued to hone his craft as an expert stone mason for years to come. While many of his friends married early in life, Jim didn’t meet his soulmate until the late 1960s when he met his future wife, Carol. They were married on Jan. 31, 1970, in Milwaukee, and lived in Menomonee Falls until they embarked on their dream to live in the Northwoods. In 1971, they bought property and Jim began building their first home in Little Rice, on the Tomahawk River. They later built their second and final home together in Hazelhurst, on South Blue Lake in 1977. He lived here until his death.
Jim loved life in the Northwoods. He was a legendary ice fisherman, bringing home countless walleyes from the Willow Flowage and Canada. He also jumped on the new pastime of snowmobiling early in the sport’s history, owning a Scorpion and a Ski Doo.
While he owned his own business, Holiday Industries, for many years, and built basements and garage floors for many area homes, Jim also worked for several contractors in the Lakeland area from the 1980s until his retirement in the early 2000s. He helped build foundations for many private homes and businesses in the community and created many unique stone fireplaces, including the large fireplace in the lobby of The Pointe Hotel in Minocqua. One of his trademark features of his stonework would be time capsules placed in hearths, his attempt to help all of us remember our past and history. If you have a “Hoppe Fireplace,” you probably have a secret time capsule somewhere.
In recent years, Jim enjoyed spending his time at home watching the birds, feeding his squirrels, sitting by his firepit, relaxing on the deck on South Blue with a cocktail, and taking pontoon boat rides with his beloved cat, Smokie. He was a wonderful “Grandpa” to the family cats and always provided way more cat treats than necessary. He also supported his children Rich and Carrie in their business, StarGazer Limousine Service, and drove many area residents and visitors as a driver for the Safe Ride program for many years.
Jim is survived by his only daughter, Carrie, and his son-in-law, Richard Linzmeier, and many countless friends all over Wisconsin, including the Northwoods and the Milwaukee area. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Carol, and his parents, Marlin and Leone Hoppe, and his only aunt, Carol Hoppe.
Visitation will be held on Saturday, April 10, from 10 a.m. to noon at Nimsgern Funeral Home in Woodruff, with a memorial service at noon at the funeral home. Family and friends are encouraged to share their memories of Jim during the service. A funeral procession with police traffic control will go from the funeral home to Whispering Pines Cemetery in Hazelhurst where burial with full military honors will take place. All friends and family are welcome to gather to celebrate Jim’s life and legacy at a luncheon directly after the burial.
Donations may be directed to the family or the American Heart Association in Jim’s name.
To plant a tree in memory of James “Jim” Hoppe, visit the Tribute Store.
Online condolences may be shared at www.nimsgernfuneral.com. Nimsgern Funeral & Cremation Services is serving the family.