Hopper exhibit features a lifetime’s collection of interest and photos

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 31, 2002

When Mary Ann Hopper moved to Albert Lea in 1998, she jumped into the arts community with both feet.

&uot;She was born with art in her blood,&uot; Dan Hopper said of his late wife. &uot;Her mother was a potter, and they had a studio.&uot;

Works by Mary Ann and her family, a lifetime’s collection of interest and photos, are being featured during the month of September in the Herfindahl Gallery of the Albert Lea Art Center, 224 S. Broadway. An open house reception will be held Sunday, Sept. 15.

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Mary Ann Wormsbecker was born in Minneapolis. Her family moved to North Dakota and eventually to Jardine, Mont., where they owned and operated a hunting and fishing lodge near the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

It was there she developed her love of horses. &uot;She started drawing horses when she was very small,&uot; Dan said. &uot;She was always experimenting with wildlife. She had elk, deer, moose, bear and birds right in her backyard.&uot;

The lodge had 30 head of horses, Dan said, so Mary Ann learned to ride. It was her responsibility to get the horses down from the upper pasture. She then took tourists on trail rides through the park for 50 cents an hour.

&uot;She got to ride horses from dawn to dusk,&uot; Dan said.

Mary Ann also did a lot of fishing. &uot;There was some of the best fishing close by where she grew up,&uot; Dan said.

She spent two winters outside Los Angeles when her father started a business with his brother. It was there she learned to drive, and also took some art classes in the high school.

Mary Ann met Dan Hopper at Montana State University. They were married in


The couple had four children and lived in many parts of the country &045; wherever Dan’s job took them. They moved from Bozeman, Mont., to New York City, then Omaha, Neb. There, Mary Ann set up a preschool in the family’s basement.

&uot;We spent many hours at the Henry Doorley Zoo,&uot; Dan recalled. &uot;It was there that our kids first got to know nature and animals.&uot;

The next home for the family was in Cascade, Mont., where the couple organized a Cub Scout pack.

Then, in Dayton, Ohio, Mary Ann got involved in Aullwood, the Audubon center and farm, where she was a docent. &uot;That’s where our kids were taught to respect and enjoy nature,&uot; Dan said.

The family got involved in a rescue and release program with animals. &uot;She was The Snake Lady,&uot; Dan said of his wife. &uot;She handled the snakes and took them to school. It was not uncommon for her to walk in the door with you name it.&uot;

It was also at Aullwood that the family learned about wildflowers and Mary Ann had her first thoughts about gardening.

With Girl Scouts and Brownies, it wasn’t unusual for Mary Ann to take the kids on campouts and other adventures. She and the family also enjoyed archeology.

In Philadelphia, as a Friend of the Arts, she helped to bring Up With People to the city. Eventually, all four of the Hopper children would travel with Up With People.

It was there she began working outside the home again, this time in a nursery, learning a lot about growing plants. When they moved to Indianapolis, they had one child left at home, and Mary Ann spent more time gardening.

They spent seven years there, and during that time were part of a congregation that built a new church. In the nursery, Mary Ann and their daughter Angie painted a mural using characters their daughter Angie had drawn.

Mary Ann also learned to cook on a hearth in her job at Conner Prairie, a historic 1836 village.

&uot;She played the carpenter’s wife, and she could cook very well over that hearth. She was an excellent cook.

&uot;Anyone who had her apple pie could attest to that,&uot; Dan said.

She also worked as a nanny for two years for a professional football player’s family. &uot;She never said no,&uot; Dan recalled. &uot;It was always, ‘Why not?’&uot;

The Hoppers lived a short time in Kansas City before moving to Albert Lea. Here, she was active in the Albert Lea Art Center, the Albert Lea Audubon Society, the First Impressions Program and the Shades of Jade Regional Garden Club. The couple also spent time each week at Myre-Big Island State Park.

&uot;The next thing would have been the Rendezvous,&uot; Dan said of his wife’s intentions before her death on Feb. 11 of this year.

The four Hopper children inherited their mother’s love of art and their father’s love of music. David, his wife Angela, and baby son, Nicholas live in Carmel Valley, Calif. He teaches music, drama and a Renaissance arts class in Monterey, Calif., and has a master’s degree in music opera. Jeff, Karen, and their week-old son, Ethan, live in Portland, Ore. He telecommutes as a trainer for a software company. They both are origami experts and enjoy taiko drumming. Daughter Christine Certo and husband A.J. live in Philadelphia. She just earned her master’s degree in historic preservation, and her thesis for that was on downtown Albert Lea. Daughter

Angie is earning her bachelor of arts degree in photography. She is attending the Savannah College of Art and Design, just as her sister did.

The show will include not only some of Mary Ann’s works from throughout her life, but also some of her mother’s and children’s. Items like her saddle will also be on display.

The Art Center gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday. There is no admission to attend the exhibit, but freewill donations are accepted to help defray Art Center expenses.