Norma Hopfer

Born March 3, 1913 in Uniontown, MA. baptized in March of 1913 at Immanuel Lutheran Church.  She was confirmed on May 26, 1926 in Newert, IL.  She died on August 26, 2007. At the time of her death, Norma Hopfer was just four foot four and weighed only eighty-five pounds. But inside that tiny frame was a woman of great strength and moral stature. Norma grew up on a small farm in southern Illinois, the middle child in a family of five. Upon graduation from eighth grade, she was awarded a scholarship to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, assuming she would complete high school. However, she never did go to high school, instead continuing to work on the family farm until her early twenties, when she moved to St. Louis and found employment as an apprentice to a custom tailor at an exclusive boutique. This experience affirmed her creative gifts and led to a lifetime skill of sewing beautiful garments and church banners, some of which are still hanging today. However, it was only a few years before Norma recognized her desire to become a teacher of young children. After some investigation, Norma discovered that the scholarship that had been offered to her after eighth grade was still available if she could successfully pass the college entrance exam. Without attending high school, Norma passed the exam and within the year, enrolled in college. After earning her teaching certification, she taught at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in St. Louis while continuing her college work. In 1951 she received a call to serve in the Bay area at St. Paulus Lutheran Church and school with the same pastor whose church she had attended when he was still in St. Louis. She loved the new multi-cultural community and the opportunities it presented. She also loved teaching young children (K-3) and was able to effortlessly integrate her artistic gifts with her teaching. Early in her career, Norma’s father always encouraged her to save some of her earnings so that she would have enough to take care of herself, so the discipline to save a part of each pay check was established early. However, it was her nephew who encouraged her to invest that savings and slowly that seed began to grow.

Norma was a woman without guile. What you saw was what she was. She was a woman who courageously spoke up for what she believed in. As a teacher she experienced the discrimination in salaries between men and women. She spoke up and she fought for equal rights and equal pay. Having grown up in the Lutheran church when they did not ordain women, she was very supportive of women clergy and affirmed their presence in the church. Norma was also an exceptionally generous woman and continued to teach and serve long after her retirement. She participated in programs to reach out to people who were homeless, sponsored people for baptisms, helped illiterate people learn to read, and often invited people in her community to come and eat with her. After having surgery in her early 90s she was told that she needed someone to stay with her during her recovery. Two formerly homeless men who had become members of St. Paulus volunteered to stay with her. In exchange for their care she taught one of them to read and shared morning devotions with both of them before they headed to work.