It is with heavy hearts that we acknowledge the passing of Hank Dopler, veteran, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle and friend.
Hank was born in Moline Illinois, the second child and oldest son of the late Sharp Dopler and the late Jennie Isabelle (Shaeffer) Dopler. He was Sauk/Fox/Cherokee and very proud of his heritage. Hank left home at an early age to work the rodeo circuit as a cattle hand, bull rider and rodeo clown. He lied about his age to enlist in the US Navy Seabees during the later part of WWII and served in the Asia Pacific Campaign. He served in the Korean War on supply ships and also completed three tours in Vietnam. While serving, his main trade was as a Construction Mechanic, but he also achieved mastery in all Seabee trades and as well as Dive Chief. He was clearly the blueprint for MacGyver because if he couldn’t build it or fix it, it simply couldn’t be done. He was a grand storyteller, regaling all with tales of friendly rivalries and pranks played on other services while serving. We often heard the story of how he was blown out of the water in Guantanamo Bay! He rarely spoke of the difficulties or negative experiences of those times although his startle response when sleeping was legendary.
While stationed at USN Base in Argentia Newfoundland, he met Mary Catherine (Hurley) Dopler (1940-1998) whom he later married and produced 5 children, T. Sharp Dopler (Kirsten), Kal Mitchell (Terry), Jody Peet (Gerry), Courtnay M’Laura Dopler (1969-1974), and Tiia Dopler. Upon his retirement from the USN in 1971, Hank and Mary settled in Paradise Newfoundland and he worked as a Real Estate Agent, Heavy Equipment Sales and Instructor for Newfoundland Tractor. He never stopped fixing kids bikes or anything that someone needed.
Mary and Hank retired to Eufaula Oklahoma in 1989 to enjoy warmer weather and for Hank to be able to spend time with his mother and family. While in Oklahoma, Hank, never tiring for work, took up driving as an escort driver for oversize loads. He had many tales of these road trips, including the day he walked out of his motel room into the muzzle of a handgun. His response was to calmly push the weapon away and tell the assailant to ‘put that away before someone gets hurt’. He took great pride in the fact that he still had his wallet after the incident!
After Mary passed in 1998, Hank married Katherine Joylene MacDougal (1930-2009) and they lived in Eufaula until her death. As was his way, Hank generously embraced Katherine’s adult children as his own, providing kindness and support as he has always done for his own children and many others.
Due to failing sight and mobility issues, Hank returned to Canada (Ottawa) in 2010 where he moved into assisted living. With his gregarious nature and quick wit, he had no trouble settling in and making friends. In 2015, Hank moved into the Perley and Rideau Veteran’s Health Centre due to increasing need for care and support. Over the time he has been there, he has made many friends of residents and staff as he traveled most of the 5-acre complex. The PSW’s called him Mr. Hank and he was a regular fixture at the front desk chatting with the Commissionaires, especially his good friend Rhonda. At Perley, he was an active member of the Veteran’s council and an agitator for better food! Every staff member to whom he was mentioned, usually lit up with a smile.
Hank was a regular participant at the Seniors program at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health where he was known as ‘Grandpa Hank’. He was also an active member of the Aboriginal Veterans Autochtone circle in Ottawa, attending gatherings and pow wows as he was able. He was much appreciative of these opportunities to learn and practice his culture which led him to push the Perley to create a space for Indigenous Veterans to be able to smudge whenever they felt moved to do so. Hank was firmly committed to community service as a 32nd Degree Freemason, member of the Royal Canadian Legion and as a life member of both the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Club
The impacts of the isolation related to the CoVid-19 Pandemic, along with a diagnosis of advanced Cancer were challenging to Hank but he faced it all with his usual equanimity. He regularly expressed his appreciation for the care he received, as well as the calls and communication from far-flung family members.
He will be greatly missed by his children, grandchildren (Cameron, Dale, Courtney and Lily), great-grandchildren (Lily, Lindsay, Kendrick, and Kaitlyn), extended family, a broad circle of friends and other community members. The void of his presence is tempered by the many stories that he shared with great humour, his kindness, generosity and the unflappable manner that he passed on to all of us. Rest well warrior, we have the watch.
Memorial service to be held 1300h, 20th of March 2021 at Hope Cemetery, 4660 Bank Street Ottawa. Internment to take place at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, St. John’s Newfoundland at a date to be determined. In lieu of flowers, please offer donations to your local Veteran’s Service organisation or Indigenous organisation in his memory.