Frank Fincher Hooper -- 1918-2009

Frank came into this world and left it imperilled by respiratory viruses. In 1918 they weren’t sure he would survive one of the world’s most lethal influenza pandemics. In 2008 they were pretty sure he wouldn’t survive his third case of pneumonia in a year. He proved to be made of stronger stuff than anyone guessed and he proved them wrong. Frank’s life is a study in strength and purpose dedicated to his loves and passions – Grace, his family, limnology, fishing, friends, Michigan football, and exercise.

In addition to surviving the flu pandemic and scarlet fever, Frank managed to survive his brother Emmet’s fondess for collecting and keeping poisonous reptiles. The brothers were the children of Frances Jewel McDonald and Thurmond Emmet Hooper, who had left central Mississippi to homestead in Paradise Valley, Arizona, with Frank’s aunt and uncle. One of the ways the family weathered the Depression was by raising chickens, and a childhood overdose of chicken may be the source of Frank’s lifelong distaste of “clucker.” His love of tamales, enchiladas, chili, and other fiery Southwestern dishes also dates to the earliest days of Frank’s life and at least one of his daughters claims to have been weaned on salsa ranchero.

The Hoopers moved around between Phoenix, Arizona; several small towns in the Rio Grande valley in Texas; San Diego, and Bishop, California, as the boys were growing up.. Frank and Emmet, who was 6 years older, went to high school in Phoenix. At age 90 Frank still retained his high school Spanish and regaled his grandsons with “Mi Rancho Grande.” Frank learned to drive in an early model Ford on his Aunt’s ranch. He was in scout Troop No. 1 in San Diego, and attained the rank of Eagle Scout. He earned money with a paper route and delivering beer. He graduated early and followed his brother to Berkeley.

Frank had a scholarship to Berkeley, but earned his room and board by working in the kitchen of a sorority. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa honorary society and graduated in 1939. From Berkeley, Frank went to the University of Minnesota for graduate school. He studied with one of the forefathers of ecology, Raymond Lindeman, who died in 1942 at the age of 27. It was as a teaching assistant in chemistry that Frank met Grace Shepherd. Frank enlisted in the Army Air Corps in July, 1942 and was trained in meteorology at the University of Chicago by one of the pioneers of modern meteorology, Carl-Gustaf Rossby. Grace and Frank were married on a weekend pass in 1943. Frank held the rank of Captain and served in the Northwest Territories of Canada and in Alaska, forecasting weather for planes flying over the Bering Strait. After the war, Frank returned to Minnesota and was awarded his doctorate on March 18, 1948. His chairman was Samuel Eddy, and committee members were D.E. Minnich, C.E. Mickel, W.S. Cooper, and R.M. Tryon.

Frank and Grace moved to Ann Arbor after he earned his doctorate. Over the next 12 years they had their 3 daughters, Frances, Celia, and Carol. They were part of a close extended family as Emmet and his wife Helen and their sons Alan and Kim lived just up the street. Grace’s sister, Louise, and husband Bob Storer also lived in Ann Arbor and provided Frank with an additional two nephews, Bob and Dave Storer. Frank’s parents and Grace’s parents also moved to Ann Arbor to be close to their children and grandchildren.

Frank was an instructor in zoology for his first four years in Ann Arbor, including teaching at the Biological Station. He was paid $450 for teaching at the “Bug Camp” in 1950. He moved to the Institute for Fisheries Research in 1952. We are hoping to hear more about Frank’s research and teaching career from Jim Diana in a moment. Highlights include Frank’s research on nutrient cycling in streams – now called nutrient spiralling. This work was largely conducted with Robert Ball of Michigan State University and his graduate students in the Pigeon River area of northern Michigan. When the summer’s shipment of P32 radioisotope arrived, students, wives, and children over the age of 10 were all pressed into service collecting data at stations along the West Branch of the Sturgeon River.
Work with radioisotopes led to a 1962-1963 sabbatical year at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission outside of Washington, D.C. In later years he served on licensing boards of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission adjudicating petitions for nuclear power plants. From 1965-1966 Frank was the Director of the Institute for Fisheries Research.

The following years, 1966-67, Frank was president of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, and that year joined the School of Natural Resources, where he taught Aquatic Ecology and Aquaculture. He chaired the SNR’s program in Resource Ecology from 1983 until he retired from teaching in 1987. Frank routinely scheduled his classes for 8AM. Less charitable students claimed that although he lectured at 8AM, he didn’t fully wake up until his sacrosanct mid-day swim at the IM pool. Frank had his less charitable moments, too. During the confrontational period of the 1960s, one of his slogans was, “Support academic freedom -- ban students.”

Research during his years in SNR focused on the nutrient dynamics of bog lakes in the Upper Peninsula on a tract of land owned by the University of Notre Dame. Frank also taught aquatic ecology at SNR’s Camp Filbert-Roth near Iron River. Frank had a number of outstanding and memorable graduate students over the years, including Claire Schelske, Robert Reinert, Steve Hildebrand, Bill Kovalak, Dave Ottey, Ed Brady, David Allan, David Imes, Jeff Koenings, Steve Kohler, Mike Wiley, Laura Morris, Cathy Pringle, and Jim Wojcik. Frank retired from active service on December 31, 1986.

[Introduce Jim Diana with details on Frank’s professional life]
[Interlude: Guitarist Helene Rottenberg, playing Wild Irish Thyme]

Even after he retired, Frank was probably never told by anyone to “get a life.” Outside of his work, he had numerous passions -- primary among these was fishing. We hope Bill Dawson and Gary Belovsky will recount some of their fishing and other adventures with Frank. The house in Bonita Springs, Florida, which had been a refuge during university holidays, became a winter home when Frank retired. Neighbors up and down the beach soon knew Frank as the guy in the speedo who did his early-morning swim and beach-run in any weather.

Frank enjoyed visits with his grandsons, Sam, now 16, Jean-Philippe, 13, and Sagenay, 10, and also with his nephews’ children – Nadja, Muir, and Josia on the Hooper side, and Andrea and Bobby on the Storer side.

Frank and Grace were devoted Michigan sports fans and had season tickets to both basketball and football for many years. Watching a game with Frank was always a memorable, if not deafening experience, but we cannot believe the rumor that Michigan’s most recent football fortunes contributed to his demise.

Summers were divided between Langford Lake in the U.P. and extended fishing trips in Montana. There was also time for travel to spots like to New Zealand, Alaska, Belize, Tierra del Fuego, and Hawaii. Particularly in Northern Michigan, Frank was an inveterate mushroom hunter, particularly favoring Chanterelles and Morels. He swapped fishing advice for mushroom-hunting advice with mycologist Alex Smith -- notorious for fishing in dry weather; mushroom hunting in damp weather.

After Grace’s death in 2004, Frank continued to travel to visit daughters, friends, and relatives, from England to Hawaii. Most of the family gathered last year to celebrate Frank’s 90th birthday in Virginia. Travel became more difficult as his health deteriorated, but Frank continued to enjoy weather prognostication, geology, picking blueberries, squirt gun fights with his grandsons, and watching movies -- particularly those featuring Berkeley classmate Gregory Peck or favorite actresses Katherine and Audrey Hepburn. He was a voracious reader, particularly of mysteries and adventure fiction. It was a challenge to keep him supplied with new material. In the last few years he had to give up swimming, but with dogged determination continued his walking.
In his last years Frank continued to develop new skills and interests. He was an early and vociferous supporter of Barack Obama -- perhaps due to his visits to New Hampshire. He cast his absentee ballot and watched the inauguration with great enthusiasm. Those of you who attended Fran’s wedding or other family celebrations will also recall that Frank developed a poetic streak in the latter years of his life and composed epic doggerel.

Despite his reputation as an irascible curmudgeon, Frank was a social animal and wove friendship into vocation and avocations. He and Grace were bridge players, square-dancers, and music fans early in their married life. Norm and Ruth Kemp and Lu and Del Eliot were honorary aunts and uncles of their daughters. Frank and Grace shared summer research housing with Bob and Betty Ball, and shared a vacation home with Bill and Ginny Dawson.

Frank launched an informal evening seminar group for SNR students—Grace provided the refreshments that added to the discussion’s appeal. Jennifer and Gary Belovsky hosted Frank and Grace on fishing trips in Montana. Frank was a life member of an informal hunting group that included friends from MSU and U of M. Part of the appeal was a Hunt dinner afterwards – ingeniously prepared by the wives from the products of the hunt – which on at least one occasion amounted to one measly woodcock. Frank enjoyed block parties and dinners with the gang on McLaughlin Blvd. in Florida and with friends and neighbours in Ann Arbor. Even in his last months of life, Frank’s social circle was still expanding, with staff from Concord Hospital and New Hampshire in-laws joining the ranks of Frank Fans. Which brings us up to the present. After we hear from some of Frank’s colleagues and friends, we hope you will join us at Frank’s home to share your favorite Frank stories.

[Introduce Bill Dawson]
[Introduce Gary Belovsky]

I mentioned that Frank became a bit of a poet in his later years. I would like to close with some of Frank’s own words. This is a slightly modified version of a poem that he wrote as a thank-you to Ginny and Bill Dawson after a trip he shared with them in Hawaii after Grace died. I now extend these thanks to all of you, who so greatly enriched Frank’s life. I give you his “Ode to Poipu:”

We toasted the past
And the moments that last
With spirit and good humor.
We never tired
Of the sunset’s bright fire
Or the tiny dove’s soft murmur.

You healed my soul
With colors soft and bold
From nature’s awesome displays,
Dear family and friends, thanks a-plenty
For joys that were many
On bright and beautiful days.

Link to Celia's Aquatic Eulogy poem for her Dad