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Judge Hopper dies of ‘massive heart attack’

February 25, 2009

Published February 25, 2009 08:09 pm – ANDERSON — Longtime Madison County Judge David W. Hopper is dead after an apparent heart attack late Tuesday night. He was 60.

Doug Long, a local lawyer and Hopper’s brother-in-law, said Hopper suffered a “massive heart attack” some time around midnight at his home in Anderson. He was taken to Saint John’s Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead early Wednesday. He said Hopper was in excellent health and his death comes as a shock to the family.

“He was the best man at my wedding, he was married to my sister for 37 years,” Long said. “We’re kind of in shock. He wasn’t overweight, he had no cholesterol (problems), he had low blood pressure.”

Hopper, a Republican, served as judge of Madison County Court 1 — which became Madison County Superior Court 4 this year— for 22 years in all. He also served eight years as judge of the Madison County Drug Court.

By his own count, Hopper saw more than 70,000 cases resolved. He was scheduled to hear a jury trial Wednesday morning.

“We worked very closely on a lot of projects,” said Madison Superior Court 1 Judge Dennis Carroll. “We’re devastated at the thought of such a loss.”

The two became colleagues after Hopper beat incumbent Democrat George Hughel for the County Court 1 seat in 1980. Both were sworn in in January 1981.

“As a colleague, everybody knew David Hopper as a scholar and as a gentleman,” Carroll said. “I said to Judge (Thomas) Newman that in this business you collect enemies, but it was impossible to name an enemy of his. Even when he made difficult decisions he was gracious and a gentleman.”

Hopper and his wife, Durenda, a first-grade teacher at Killbuck Elementary School, have two sons, one living in Charlotte, N.C., and the other in Arkansas, and three grandchildren. Long said Hopper was a registered organ donor, Funeral arrangements are pending at Rozelle-Johnson Funeral Service.

Hopper grew up on a farm in rural Adams Township, the oldest of five children. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English education from Purdue University in 1971 and became a teacher at Leach Junior High School in the Frankton-Lapel school district.

He left teaching to pursue law, earning his law degree from Indiana University in 1978 and then a master’s degree from Ball State University. He opened a private practice in Chesterfield.

“Hopper was a judge with a quiet manner and an equally humble campaign style,” said Kevin Sulc, deputy chair of the Madison County Republican Party. “I think Judge Hopper was an excellent example of what a true public servant is. He had a public servant’s heart.”

Hopper lost the race for judge in 1990 to George Pancol, but beat Pancol in 1996 to take back the bench. In addition to his service with Madison County, Hopper also spent six years as Hamilton County Circuit Court master commissioner.

“Obviously we’re shocked,” Sulc said. “He was in apparent good health so it’s a sad loss. We definitely have the family in our prayers. This is a big loss for the Madison County community.”

He was named 2006 Judge of the Year by Indiana Correctional Association. Hopper served on many community boards, including the South Madison Community Foundation, Purdue Extension, 4-H Association, Contact-HELP, Anderson Weekday Religious Education, Christian Student Foundation, Youth Need Prime Time and Community Corrections.

Madison County Commissioner Paul Wilson, D-South District, said the flag at the Madison County Government Center had already been lowered.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2009 12:30 am

    Oh, Jess,
    I’m so sorry. Praying for you all still.

  2. Amanda McEwen permalink
    February 26, 2009 7:57 am

    This made me cry. He was such a good man. Please love on Durenda for me. Tell her I am praying for her too. I love you all.

  3. Jen Lunsford permalink
    February 26, 2009 8:40 am

    Oh Jess! I am so sorry for this tremendous loss! I will keep you all in my prayers!!

  4. patty permalink
    February 26, 2009 11:44 am

    What an amazing legacy. It would have been an honor to know him.

    Praying for you and your family at this time. Bask in the love your friends and family are giving you. It will sustain you but more importantly He will give you the strength that you never knew you had at this time. And crying – lot’s of it – IS normal – exhausting but normal. I know – I’ve been there more than I care to count.

  5. February 26, 2009 4:46 pm

    What a handsome man he was. I’m sorry sorry for your sudden loss. It has made me hold my loved ones closer. I’m praying for your family for strength and peace.

  6. March 3, 2009 12:00 pm

    You know I’d run up there if you needed me to! It is so interesting to read this. I wish I’d met him! So many things in the article sound familiar… Cassie was born at St. John’s; I substituted at Killbuck; I know exactly where that flag flies at half-mast for your beloved man. Those things make me feel a tad closer to you today, when I wish I could hug you!

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