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The Rev. Robert Hopkins, 105, died Dec. 13; his memory lives

POSTED: December 31, 2007 5:02 a.m.
GAINESVILLE — The Rev. Robert Lee Hopkins lived through 18 U.S. presidents. He came before the world wars, and he stayed well past the turn of a century.

And after 105 years of life, Hopkins’ family and friends said goodbye Wednesday, sending him to his grave in a horse-drawn carriage.

"We’re going to take this man away with dignity," said the Rev. Darrell Watkins, who gave Hopkins’ eulogy. "He lived in a time ... that the only thing he wanted to do when he was coming up was have a decent funeral."

"We’re not going to take him out of here any kind of way. I want him hauled through Hall County on horse and carriage," Watkins said.

Hopkins was born on Aug. 14, 1902, in Banks County.

He helped build Gold Kist Inc. in Gainesville, and drove the company’s feed truck for 30 years.

Hopkins survived his two wives, throat cancer and the days of segregation. Hopkins, the grandson of a slave, had plenty of stories to tell.

Hopkins died on Dec. 13. He left behind a daughter, Barbara Ann Hopkins Davenport of Atlanta, an honorary son, Lawrence Howard of Gainesville, five grandchildren, two honorary grandchildren, 13 great- grandchildren and six honorary great-grandchildren.

"I’d like to sit down with Mr. Bob, listen to him tell the story," said the Rev. Fred Muckle, who preached the funeral. "How you endure it, how you put up with it, how you made it 105 years."

"That’s a blessing ... he has lived his life."

Those who spoke about Hopkins at the funeral told of a man who loved God and music. Hopkins was known to play the piano, the harmonica, the guitar and the spoons.

"One day I went (to his house), and I knocked on the door ... it sounded like the house was just vibrating," one woman said. "I said ‘Mr. Bob, you all right?’ and he said ‘I’m just in here praising the Lord.’"

Some mentioned his dedication to the church.

"He was one of the pillars of this church. This church has lost a pillar," said a man who served on the deacon board with Hopkins.

Others said Hopkins was a father figure.

"Mr. Robert was the type of person who set an example for the whole community," another woman said. "It was just something about Mr. Robert, when he stood up at church, he just made you feel so good."

Tiffani Woodford, after hearing what others had to say about her grandfather, stood from the choir to speak about Hopkins.

Woodford told of the songs that Hopkins used to teach her.

"He always had us singing," Woodford said.

She said it was only right to sing in her grandfather’s honor. And she did.

"We shall behold the lamb of God, sitting on the throne, no more crying, no more weeping, troubles will be gone," Woodford sang. "Hallelujah, there be joy forever more, when we reach that other shore."



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