Dick Hoppes is remembered by many as a intelligent, caring leader during his 17-year career as Crook County Judge

Crook County lost a respected leader and human being on Wednesday as former county judge Dick Hoppes passed away at the age of 84.

Those who knew Hoppes personally and professionally recall a man whose intellect and charisma wowed people as much as professionalism and moral fiber.

Hoppes was first elected after joining the 1974 county judge slate as a write-in candidate. Holding the office of Crook County Judge from 1975 to 1992, he is remembered by his employees as a bright and gracious leader.

County Juvenile Director Debra Patterson praised Hoppes' level of expertise while hearing juvenile cases. At that time, the county judge still held judicial authority in juvenile cases and Hoppes presided over many cases.

"Although he wasn't an attorney, circuit court judges from other areas would call him and ask his opinion on matters because he knew what he was doing," Patterson remarked. "He knew the statutes as well as anyone. He understood the law."

Circuit Court Judge Dan Ahern, a former Jefferson County Judge and close friend of Hoppes, agrees.

"He had a tremendous reputation statewide as a juvenile judge, and was so good that it kept critics of that system — having local county judges handle juvenile court — at bay," he said.

Hoppes maintained an equally sterling reputation as the head of county government. Crook County Clerk Dee Berman initially worked for Hoppes as secretary pro tem, and was responsible for keeping meeting minutes when the primary secretary was unavailable.

"He was firm in the courtroom," she said. "He allowed people whatever time they needed before county court, but when they (the court) discussed a decision, the court's decision was firm."

Berman went on to call Hoppes a true leader who was fair and treated his employees well. His leadership acumen prompted her to never refer to the man by first name.

"I always called him judge," Berman said, "even after he was out of office. I just had that much respect for him."

Patterson shared the same respect and singled out his fiscal prowess in particular.

"He was a good steward with public funds," she recalled. "He was very frugal, sometimes to the point of making us as employees just mad — but we understood, and I think he was looking out for the best interests of the public."

Ahern was similarly taken by Hoppes' conservative approach to finance.

"Even today, the county is probably spending money Dick saved," he remarked.

While Hoppes has earned high praise as a professional, those who knew him are quick to draw attention to his character and personality.

Patterson remembers Hoppes taking a chance on her as a college graduate. The judge hired her as a counselor and mentored her until later hiring her as juvenile director. She credits Hoppes with shaping who she is today.

"I remember him telling me you always err on the side of the child," she said. "You do too much rather than too little."

After taking office as clerk, when Hoppes had retired, Berman was frequently visited by the former judge when he came to the courthouse.

"He would come up and ask me how I was doing and how things were going, so he was very caring that way."

Not only was Hoppes remembered as a man of high character, he was known to be quite a character.

"He would tell jokes like no other and remember jokes. He could remember poems. He had a great sense of humor," Patterson said.

That humor took center stage when Hoppes decided to call it a career. His retirement ceremony fittingly included a roast, which gave him the opportunity to showcase his wit.

A story published in the Central Oregonian that covered his retirement roast told the tale of Hoppes taking the stage after enjoying some good-natured jabs from his peers.

"Wearing a suit he had custom-made in 1954, Hoppes said he was feeling proud as he prepared to come to dinner that the suit still fit him," the article stated. "Then, he said his wife, holding a button, came up and asked him if the button belonged to him. With that, Hoppes raised his coat, showed his pants, which did not have a top button. 'I'm just glad the zipper stayed on,' he said."

Hoppes married Barbara Lee McRae in July 1955 and was the father of daughters Adrienne Gapter of Salina, Kan., Michele Daum of Kimball, Neb., and Cheri Rasmussen of?Prineville.

"The community was very fortunate to have him," Patterson said. "He did a great job. He was a wonderful man and he will be missed."

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