Burel A. Hopper was born on November 28, 1933 to the late Clinton Hopper and Hazel Riggs in Gerard, Illinois. He had three brothers and one sister. Burel went to high school in Virden, Illinois and graduated in 1953. Shortly after graduation he enlisted in the US Navy and entered boot camp training at the Great Lake Base in Illinois.
Burel’s oldest brother Bob Hopper was also in the Navy during WWII and served as a coxswain, driving landing crafts full of soldiers to the beaches in North Africa and Italy.
As the result of his testing in boot camp, Burel was assigned to electrician school and upon graduation, became an electrician mate. In the Navy, electrician mates are responsible for operating a ship’s electrical equipment and power generation systems.
Burel’s first two years in the Navy were spent in Norfolk, VA on shore duty. His final two years in the Navy were spent on ships. His first assignment was an electrician mate aboard the USS Lowry DD-770, a 2,200 ton 376ft long destroyer built in San Pedro, CA in 1944. He sailed along the Eastern seaboard as far north as Nova Scotia.
Burel’s next assignment was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forestall. He sailed to the Caribbean and stopped at the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Being far away from home, Burel was so delighted when he saw his best friend from high school who was also a sailor on the Forrestal and to be able to share the remainder of the cruise together.
His third and final ship was another aircraft carrier the USS Coral Sea. On this last posting the ship was part of a fleet which sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and into the Mediterranean Sea, stopping at ports of Italy, Turkey, and Major Sea just to name a few.
In addition to serving as an electrician mate in all these ships, Burel also was a part of the Sea and Anchor Detail, which was based under the flight deck in front of the carrier. From the anchor room he could see the ports of call coming and going. Burel enjoyed some of the most pleasant moments of life at sea.
After Burel left active duty in the Navy, he moved to Los Angeles and got his first job with Southern California Edison as an electrical substation operator where he stayed for 5 years.
After 5 years at Southern California Edison, Burel went to work at the Federal Bonneville Power Administration on the Columbia Mines in Washington for two years, then moved to Arizona and worked for the Bureau of Reclamation. By 1966, he transferred to Tracy and stayed for 15 years before retiring.
In 1981, Burel began working for the city of Santa Clara as a power plant system operator. He was in charge of scheduling, buying, and selling power for the city. Burel retired from the city in 2003. But he was not done working. He continued to do the same job for Santa Clara as an independent contractor for another two years until finally retiring at the age of 70.
Burel has lived through Pearl Harbor, World War II, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Suez Canal crisis, and the Vietnam War. The roles Burel played in his service were voluntarily undertaken. He had chosen to join the diverse pack, knowing the possibility of putting himself in harm’s way to serve, protect, and defend his mates, family, country, and liberty.
Burel is a warm, kind, loving, and gentle soul that loves his family. He passed away with peace, comfort , grace, and dignity into a guardian angel at his beloved home on May 5th, 2020 at 8:30am at the age of 87. He is survived by his beloved wife of 25 years Cora Hopper, and 3 children from a previous marriage Robert Hopper, John Brian Hopper, and Elizabeth Garland. He’s been blessed with six grandchildren, Sebastien Hopper, Quinn Hopper, Greg Hopper, Benjamin Hopper, Daniel Garland, and Mikey Garland.
Memorials in Burel's honor can be made to St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Memorial services will be private at Sierra View Funeral Chapel.
We all love you, great sailor!
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