Harriet Hopkins
Harriet Hopkins
Harriet Hopkins

Obituary of Harriet Janis Hopkins

1946-2020 Harriet Curry-Hopkins passed into the arms of the Angels after a long bout with Alzheimer on October 11, 2020. She left this life as she lived it. With focused intensity and dogged perseverance. She was born in Sacramento Memorial Hospital, June 8, 1946 to Mary Rose Palladini and Harry Curry. Yep, an Italian-Irish Gemini… You could say she was, um, both complex and intense! She was a fifth generation Sacramentan, pretty rare. She attended Whitney Elementary and Graduated High School at Mira Loma ‘64. She graduated on Friday, was married on Saturday at McClellan Chapel and left for Jacksonville, Florida on Monday. And so, our whirlwind together began. In 1965 she began a Civil Service Career at McClellan AFB that would span 36 years. In that time she became the first female Hazardous materiel Packaging specialists in the entire Air force Logistics command. (One of Her favorite sayings was, “to succeed in this business, a woman has to perform twice as good as a Man, Luckily, that isn’t hard”). After retiring from McClellan, She went on to work for the State of California in CalPERS, where she retired after 5 years. She’s a woman you’d want on your team. No matter what people thought of Harriet, they universally admired, (or hated), her genuineness. She was the original WYSIWYG, (What you see is what you get). If she liked you, she liked you all over, if she didn’t, she had a “stink-eye” that could stop a clock. The good news is that she had a big heart and you started off on her good side by default. Course, she didn’t tolerate a fool, or ill mannered behavior and was quick to tell you about it. (I remember an incident in the Grocery store where Harriet stopped a 5 year old child's tantrum from 25 feet away with just a stare, LOL). On the other hand, she was quick with a smile and a warm hug. She had a keen sense of justice and a narrow view of right and wrong. Not a lot of gray with her. There was no malice or cruelty in Her and she would react vehemently when she saw it. She would pull the eyelids off a person that was being cruel to an animal. She would catch a spider, or a mosquito hawk, or a moth in the house with a cup and take it outside. I never saw her knowingly kill a creature…. Well, maybe a mosquito, (but then would apologize). In fact she became a vegetarian about 35 years ago because, “I’m not going to eat anything that had a face”. Like I said, black or white. She was an introverted person but did enjoy socializing, up to a point. She enjoyed dancing (evidently it’s a woman's birthright), and had an amazing sense of rhythm. Normally She was shy in front of group, (the result of a never forgotten painful experience in front of an elementary school class). But she did bask in the attention of an adoring crowd, like when I could get Her to sing with me at Karaoke. Like most humans, she responded well to genuine affection. Our relationship began when She and some girlfriends watched our family move in next door to her best friend. My family was coming from Kansas in the Summer of ‘59. “Look, four boys, and all about our age!!”. I was 15 and She was 13. Course I didn’t pay any attention to her at the time… “She's just a Kid”. In fact she was my brother Toms age. Indeed, they finished Elementary and High School together. That all changed eventually, and in ‘64 our lives merged. She graduated High School and we married all in the same week. We left immediately to live in Jacksonville, Florida where I was station in a Naval Air Squadron. It was there that I first saw her compassionate side as we adopted the most loving golden retriever ever born. We named her Hopkins Folly, or eventually, just Folly. Of course we were living on E3 sailor wages which meant we barely paid the rent. We noticed Folly wasn't well and took her to the vet. Turns out she had distemper, pretty much a fatal disease in those days, even with expensive treatment. We wanted to fight it rather than put this Pup down. The vet took pity on us and pretty much did it Pro Bono. Turns out Folly had to have a high protein diet to so we fed her all the meat we could find. Which was a sacrifice since we were largely eating flour water and cinnamon pancakes, and whatever I could steal from the mess hall. We’re starving, Folly’s eating like a Queen. Kinda set the stage for our relationship with animals. Folly did recover and she lived a good life. But I digress. Waxing nostalgic. I was being deployed on what would be a long period of sea duty, so I took Harriet home to live with Her Mom until I got back. My Navy mates were so sure Harriet would live off the fat of the land, cashing Her allotment checks, that they bet me she wouldn’t get a job. I knew better, of course, because She had a strong independent streak, (little did I realize just how powerful that streak was, LOL). This was in ‘65 so the Viet Nam war was starting to heat up. Harriet applied at McClellan AFB, (basically she fogged a mirror held up to her nose) and they hired her immediately. Thus beginning a 36 year career in civil service. That's something else about Her you should know. Harriet had a strong work ethic, (got it from Her Mom), and was always an achiever. She’s the one that always finished her homework, and pushed for excellence. This would be reflected by getting awards every year for “Sustained Superior Performance”, always finished any Air Force training at the top of her class, and rarely called in sick. She had amazing focus and attention to detail. An employers dream! The Best man at our wedding, Mike McClure, moved to California and took a job working for San Francisco Municipal Transit. He ended up as a Gripman on the cable cars. That's a whole other story, but it’s relevant here because He kept us in close touch with the SF music scene. The Sixties and Seventies were arguably the golden age of R&R, and San Francisco was Mecca. Michael would get us tickets for shows at The Family dog on the Great Highway, The Fillmore, Fillmore West, Avalon Ballroom, and a few venues I’ve forgotten. We saw Chicago Transit Authority long before it became Chicago, Boz Skaggs, Tower of Power, Johnny Winters, Big Brother and the holding Company (With Janis Joplin, of course), Ten Years After, Jefferson Airplane, Chambers Brothers, Steve Miller, Carlos Santana, CSN&Y, Country Joe and the Fish, and so on…. We were at Golden Gate Park for the Summer of Love! Not bad for a couple kids from the Country, (Orangevale, LOL). We both had long hair and Harriet had pony tails half way down her back, Yep we were weekend Hippies, Cool Man! We saw Hair performed live and generally were in on what was Hip in the City, (and Marin), at the time. So when you saw Harriet and I rock’n to that music, it wasn’t nostalgia, it was our life. When we weren’t working for the Man at McClellan AFB or going to the City for Music we were into horses. I bought Harriet a horse for Her birthday about 1967. We named him Copper after the gal at work that introduced Harriet to the idea. Thus we were introduced to Anita North and the “Horsey” set. Soon Harriet was learning to ride and began showing horses. That started a 13 year phase of horse related activities that included breeding, training and all other aspects of horse husbandry. We ended up owning over 12 horses at different times. Soon we became competitive trail riders and traveled all over Northern California. We rode a lot in the Sierras and Coast Range. Those are memories I’ll cherish forever. Harriet was a great rider and took to it like a duck to water. Once when we were conditioning our horses for an upcoming event, we took our horses into the Sierras to a place on Iron Mountain Rd, (Now Mormon Immigrant) to a cow camp. After riding all day, Harriet was washing her horse, scraping the sweat and dirt off and picking any stones or debris from it’s hooves. One of the cowboys noticed it and said to his friend, “Hope when I die I come back as that girls horse”, LOL. Harriet always had a way with creatures and they always responded well to her. Meanwhile Harriet's performance at work often put her in competition for promotions. Her skills eventually caught the attention of an enlightened Supervisor named Dennis Thute. He was filling a vacancy in the Packaging and Preservation department on the Logistics side of the house. He picked Harriet for the job from a long list of qualified folks and thus She became one of the few female Packaging Specialists in USAF. Packaging for the military isn’t just dropping an item in a cardboard box and taping it shut. These items can be delicate, expensive, dangerous and must be able to survive a huge variety of shipping and environmental conditions. So, she started going to Packaging schools all over the US to learn the in’s and out’s. Of course She’s the one that actually took notes and did the homework, rather than rendezvous at the O Club for drinks with the other students. No surprise that she aced the classes and came back ready to “Git-r-Done”. Harriet was always pretty much a Women's Libber, and there was a certain element in the logistics biz that “ain’t taking no orders from a F***ing woman”!!. That caused a lot of gnashing of teeth and pulling of fur but eventually they got it sorted out. (translation: Harriet could give as good as she got, so the folks she was advising eventually learned that she would always bark back. She spoke for the Colonel and if they had an issue, well they could explain to him why the mission wasn’t being accomplished. It always went in Harriet’s favor, LOL. Are you surprised? Eventually we decided to change directions. We got haircuts and joined main stream America. We sold all the horses, the truck, our horse trailer and moved to the Burbs In Roseville. We both focused on work. Dennis Thute took her under his wing. Dennis was incredibly bright and a visionary. He had degrees in economics, physics and had an eidetic memory. If Dennis said it, you could take it to the bank. He started innovating a whole new approach to handling material in the warehouse. (When I say warehouse, I mean a mile long building). He was the first in all the Air Force Logistics commands, (ALC’s) to implement an automated warehouse conveyor system. Even more revolutionary was a concept for foaming parts in place in containers to both reduce the cost of packaging and improve the survivability of components during shipping. Harriet was his right hand during this process. It took years of research and convincing to get the blessings and necessary funding. Dennis and Harriet took a lot of heat from people that ranged from skeptical to hostile, even sabotage. She did all this in a time when Logistics was a Mans world. Yep, she broke the glass ceiling. Ultimately, they prevailed, and McClellan became the gold standard for how ALC’s would package and ship material. They both received numerous awards and recognition. I mention all this because many of you only knew Harriet after she retired. (She only retired because they closed the Base… otherwise she’d have died on the job, LOL). You never saw Her Bulldog tenacity and have no idea what a workhorse and human dynamo she was, the obstacles she overcame and the results she achieved. Of course she would be scowling and kicking me under the table for telling all this, but Hey!, She earned it. Many of you knew Her as a result of hanging out at the Almond Tree Lounge in Roseville for the past 11 years. The Almond Tree was something of a “Mature” crowd. We all got along and looked out for each other. It became the focus of our social life and we’d often spend 4 nights a week there. (Hey, it beat TV!). Harriet may well have been the Gal that warmly welcomed you to the fold. She’d dance with most anyone that asked politely and would readily join the Gaggle of Gal’s that always seem to be on the dance floor. Harriet was literally a teetotaler. Gina would bring Her a carafe of hot water and tea bags all night long. Harriet and I would often sing along with the Karaoke singers at our table. Julie Mullen and Colleen Francis noticed and eventually cajoled me into taking up the microphone. But Harriet couldn’t get past being in front of a crowd. Eventually She would occasionally accompany me and do harmonies. She was great and always enthusiastically received. Better idea, Visit the photo gallery for an idea of what the Tree was like for us. Like I said, Harriet was one of those people you either loved or hated…. I loved her. She was compassionate, empathetic, sincere and yes, enigmatic. There’ll always be a hole in my heart. I’ll see Ya on the other side Kid!! She’ll be missed by many! We’ll do a Celebration of Life at the Tree…. When they start Karaoke back up. If you’re so inclined, Harriet would want you to contribute to the ASPCA, She volunteered there for years! https://secure.aspca.org/team/Harriet-s-memorial-campaign. Harriet would want you to Be kind and Love one another….. Or else! Family and Friends are encouraged to sign the online guestbook and light a candle for Harriet!
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A Memorial Tree was planted for Harriet
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Blue Oaks Cremation & Burial Services
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