City remembers WWII veteran

Mount Gambier is mourning the loss of one of the last of the city’s World War II veterans following the death of Jack Hopgood OAM.

Mr Hopgood, who died last week at the age of 101, served in the Royal Australian Air Force in World War II as an air craft mechanic.

Mr Hopgood returned to his hometown of Mount Gambier in 1945 after spending three years in Java, Indonesia and Singapore as a prisoner of war.

He married his wife Jean before leaving to serve in World War II and when he returned he joined his father’s automotive business as a mechanic.

He later went on to run the business.

Mr Hopgood dedicated much of his time to his local community, chairing the Boy Scouts Association, Mount Gambier TAFE and was a founding member of Mount Gambier’s Chamber of Commerce.

He also served as president of the Mount Gambier RSL.

Among his proudest achievements was the establishment of the Blue Lake Golf Course, which he and long-term friend Charlie Miller helped pioneer.

He spent 50 years as a member of the Mount Gambier Queen Elizabeth Park Trust and Lakes Beautification Committee to help transform the lakes precinct.

Mr Hopgood’s dedication to his community culminated in him being awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2018.

Mount Gambier RSL president Bob Sandow said Mr Hopgood was given life membership to the RSL several years ago.

“When we were in dire straits as an RSL Jack was one of the first to make a sizeable donation to the RSL,” he said.

“As a younger member of the RSL committee and then eventually becoming president I was able to reach out to Jack on several occasions and seek his input and advice on matters.

“He was always forthcoming in offering me that advice and opinion that I was looking for.”

Mr Sandow said Mr Hopgood returned to Japan several years ago on a reconciliation visit.

“The Japanese invited all World War II prisoners to come back, Jack went across and was the only male POW that went, the others were widows,” he said.

“He was aged about 98 and that was a mighty effort.

“He bore no malice at all he told me.

“What Jack went through in World War II was an inspiration to everybody.

“Here was a guy who was three years as a POW, basically a slave of the Japanese government who came back and picked up his life and did all these things for the community.

“He was almost held in awe by some of the younger veterans in the manner how he came back and got on with it and bore no ill feelings.”

Mr Hopgood is survived by his children Peter, Duncan and Cathryn and their families.

A funeral service will be held for Mr Hopgood next week, with numbers limited to 150 attendees due to COVID restrictions.

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