Through museum and science fair, former Deerwood teacher Hazel Hopkins left her mark on Thompson

Hazel Hopkins, a former Thompsonite who played a key role in the establishment of the Heritage North Museum and in bringing the Canada-Wide Science Fair to the city died in Winnipeg in July after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease,

Born in Swan Lake, Hopkins began her teaching career at Wingham School, which is where she met her husband Earl, whom she married in 1950. Following that, the couple settled in Fort Garry with their family and Hopkins taught in Winnipeg while continuing her education at the University of Manitoba and singing in the Donnelly Church choir and volunteering to help school choir groups. She later moved to Thompson, where she continued to indulge her love of singing while working as a junior high science teacher at Deerwood School.

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Doreen Lindquist was one of Hopkins's colleagues at Deerwood and remembers that the two of them worked together with another teacher, Jean Johnston, and students to put on plays, with Lindquist looking after the drama portion, Johnston taking care of the sets and Hopkins overseeing the musical portion.

"We were a team there at Deerwood," says Lindquist, still a resident of Thompson, where she has lived for the past 51 years. "We worked together on a lot of projects."

Hopkins was one of those who got the Canada-Wide Science Fair to host its national finals in Thompson in 1980, when more than 200 students from 51 regions presented 170 projects.

"She got the science fair going in most of the schools," says Lindquist.

Hopkins was also an important figure in the establishment of the Heritage North Museum, acting as the chief organizer of the massive volunteer effort, which saw community members helping out through hard physical labour.

"I remember scrubbing logs with Javex water," says Lindquist, as well as chinking the logs to keep cold air out after the logs, which came from Joey Lake were assembled to form the museum building. "It was so much to organize in the very beginning. Volunteers cleared the lot and we made a point of trying to conserve as many of the trees as we possibly could."

In addition to putting local history on display, the museum also helped Hopkins deal with losses in her personal life.

"I think she was quite saddened by the loss of her son and then a few years later her husband died," said Lindquist. "Work at the museum kept her going for quite a long time."

Hopkins moved to Elm Creek in 1992, having retired a few years earlier than Lindquist, who continued teaching until 1989. Her former colleague remembers paying her a visit at her new home, where Hopkins had devoted many hours to beautifying the landscape.

"She just loved gardening," Lindquist says. "She had beautiful flower beds. She was very proud of her gardens and her yard."

The pair kept in contact for many years following Hopkins's departure from Thompson, but lost touch after Hopkins moved back to Fort Garry in 2004 and later battled with Alzheimer's.

"I really lost track of her, of where she was," says Lindquist. "We did lose contact with each other once she went into the personal care home."

Leaving Thompson wasn't an easy decision for Hopkins, Lindquist says, but she left knowing she had made her mark.

"I think it was very hard for her to leave," says Lindquist, though she was also glad to see everything she had accomplished, particularly the establishment of the museum. "There was so much community involvement in the whole thing."

One of an ever-shrinking group of Thompsonites from the city's early era, many of whom move south after retiring, Lindquist has fond memories of her former Deerwood School colleague.

"She was a lot of fun, a hard worker," Lindquist says. "All in all, she was a good friend and certainly a very ambitious person."

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