Jan Hoppe never did just one thing.
She was a kindergarten teacher and an airplane pilot, a musician and a writer. She raised a son and two foster children. She volunteered at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and DFL booths at the State Fair. She could make things happen, but she could also stop and listen.
“I would like to say she was a peacemaker, but it went much deeper than that,” said her brother, Gary Albrigtson. “Maybe her deepest gift was to be able to work successfully with a wide range of people and a wide range of situations.”
Remembered for her kindness, passion and unassuming hard work, Hoppe died Nov. 18 in Maplewood of complications related to cancer. She was 74.
Janice Hoppe was born Feb. 22, 1943, in Baldwin, Wis., to a mother who taught in a one-room schoolhouse and a father who ran the family dairy farm. She was the oldest of three siblings. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a degree in education and music, and then moved to the Twin Cities for a job as a kindergarten teacher. Education ran in the family — Hoppe’s mother, uncles and several cousins were all teachers — and it was something she continued to do throughout her life, even after she stopped teaching kindergarten.
For a while, Hoppe worked for classroom supply company Trend Enterprises — she was the first employee, Albrigtson said, back when the company was housed in a basement — and then she moved to the Professional Association of Treatment Homes (PATH), a foster care and adoption nonprofit. Hoppe spent the bulk of her career at PATH, first serving on the board as a foster parent herself and then becoming director of the organization’s education institute. In that role, she oversaw training for foster and adoptive parents, beginning in Minnesota and expanding to neighboring states as PATH grew.
“She was really moved by the needs of kids, and understood that you best help kids by making better foster parents,” said Mike Peterson, former PATH executive director.
During her three decades working at PATH, Hoppe was always working with children in other ways, too. For 29 years, she worked with a team to produce AgMag, a publication that taught Minnesota students about the role of agriculture in their lives.
Hoppe won a national award for her work on the magazine, and met U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone when she traveled to Washington, D.C., to accept it.
“The staff member kind of cleared Paul’s schedule a little bit and said, ‘He’s going to want to talk to you,’ ” Albrigtson said. “It was meaningful for her.”
Amid all that, Hoppe stayed focused on music. She taught piano, played instruments — she played in the Minnesota State Band for more than 20 years — and sang.
She also spent time with her friends, many of whom were colleagues from PATH.
“She was fairly soft-spoken, but always willing to listen, always inquiring about how you were, how your day was. Always wanting to know about the other person,” said Sheila Brommel, a friend and former colleague.
Sheila and her husband, Brian Brommel, who also worked at PATH, recalled coming home one day to find that seven trees in their backyard had been marked for removal. They were devastated, they said, and could think of only one other person who would understand.
“Jan was the one person we could call on to come over,” Sheila Brommel said.
Hoppe is survived by her son, Daniel, brother, Gary, and two grandchildren. Services have been held.