Ronald Duane Hoppmann

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MIDDLETON–Ronald Duane Hoppmann was named after the actor Ronald Coleman and his brother, Dean’s twin who died right before he was born. Ron was a gifted storyteller. Here is part of his story that made him into such a beloved father, brother, uncle, grandfather and friend. He was a good guy and quite a character.

When he was five he lost a 50¢ piece on the way to the grocery store and the family went hungry. He played little league for Ray-O-Vac so he could have a new shirt that hadn't been handed down. The best Christmas he got an orange and a pencil. His house on Northern Court was heated with coal picked off the tracks leading up to MG&E. He didn't get to play sports at East because he had to work at Weber’s Bakery on Williamson. Nine of the 11 kids in his family made it to adulthood. These and many other stories were chronicled by his sister, Bev in the long running Eastside News Serial Crazy Cats Tear Their Skin and uncannily mirrored in the bestseller Angela's Ashes.

After graduating from East High School, Ron joined the US Marine Corps and headed to Korea. On the troop ship across the Pacific he won his division's technicolor yawn contest and got the news the war was over. His unit was sent to Osaka for a year where he learned to count to 10 in Japanese instead of being killed in Korea. He followed his buddies to college where he got a scholarship to play football just on the say-so of his Marine friends who were on the team. When the spring semester came and he found out he wasn't going to get fed at the training table anymore, he went to the library and checked out a book on pole-vaulting and talked the track coach into putting him on the team so he could eat in the spring as well.

Ron picked up the Homecoming Queen, Niki McGIathery at a party with the line: “Just wanted to see if you were as ugly up close as you were from over there." Five months after they were married they had their first kid. Ron was drafted by Bud Grant in the Canadian Football League but as he had a wife and child, he had to get a real job. He worked at Jewel Tea Company convincing underperformers they'd be happier doing something else. He tired of firing people and worked in advertising for a while. After divorcing, he snatched the kids and moved out to Plainfield, CT for a year where he worked various hustles, one of which was the 1970 Census. He worked every census after that, up until this year.

Ron married Janice Markey and moved back to Madison on the night they blew up the Army Math Research Center. Ron and Janice started Bord & Stol furniture, which made money two out of the 16 years it was open. In order to keep everyone fed, Ron was always on the lookout for some side-hustle. If he saw something for sale, he would find a buyer at a higher price and put the difference on the dinner table. Kings and Queens would come from miles around to line up for a thimbleful of his gristle, carrot, and bouillon cube soup.

After his second marriage and the store went south, he started working in the timber industry. He would find farmers with a stand of trees and connect them with loggers. This is a boom and bust industry, but he lived frugally and managed to keep his clock and watch habit fed right up to the end.

Ron was a dedicated Brewers fan...only on days after they won. If they won, he'd wear his Brewers cap, if they lost, he liked the Cubs. He watched every Packers game with grim certainty that they would lose. He never predicted more than eight wins to start the season. Ron's love of photography got him a part-time gig shooting high school sports for the Middleton Times-Tribune. After a while he decided the pay wasn't worth the deadlines, but he enjoyed taking pictures of the kids so much he kept going to the girls' basketball games for over 20 years and taking pictures. He would get them printed up and hand them out to their delighted families throughout the season.

Ron was also devoted to coffee and coffee shops: Rennebohm's, Bev’s, and later Hubbard Avenue Diner, and of course, C's. For a while, the chocolate fry-cake at C's was called the “Ronnie Donut" until his waistline impelled him to cut back. Every morning he could be found at the counter discussing the issues of the day with the glitterati of Middleton while he did the crossword puzzle in the complimentary paper. He had stories about every waitress, some he had known for decades.

Some of those stories made it to his writer's group where he honed his talent writing poignant memories of his childhood. Gut-wrenching and hilarious, Ron brought the east side of Madison in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s to life. Some fact, some fiction, no one would spoil the tale to ask which was which.

Ron is survived by a couple generations of girl basketball players; countless waitresses; his pals, Tom, Tom, Jack and Wally; the guys sitting at the counter at C’s; and his one-legged girlfriend, Eilene. Of his 10 siblings, only Gerry is left. His sons, Peter (Ann Helmer) Hoppmann and Carl (Becky) Hoppmann; and his daughters, Kelli (Greg Schulte) Hoppmann and Eli (Tim) Kunsch will miss him every day. His grandchildren, August, Evelyn, Kale, Finn, Gunnar, Hans, Jack, Harper, Dottie, Henry and Mark are all better for having Ron as their loving, gentle guide.

Ron passed away at home in his sleep on June 4, 2020. He had a bad case of shingles that was the last straw. Because of the COVID, we will not be holding a service at this time. Perhaps next year on his birthday, if things are looking better, we will gather to celebrate his life. Until then we have a website with pictures and stories.) Those who knew him are welcome to share their memories at RonHoppmann.com. (The site is currently under construction, so we ask that you keep going back to find more stories, pictures, and memories.) In lieu of flowers, think of Ron, drink your coffee, eat a doughnut, and tip your waitress well.

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