J. Robert Hooper, the former state senator representing the northern portions of Harford County, died last night at his home in Street after a long battle with cancer.
Hooper was owner and operator of Harford Sanitation Services and a former Harford County councilman who resigned from his state senate seat last month because of his failing health.
Around the county he was beloved for his homegrown demeanor and generosity. Hooper was known as a friend of the farmer and pushed for agricultural preservation and environmental measures, yet also understood the concerns and issues of small business owners.
Here is Bob’s biography from his web site:
J. Robert “Bob” Hooper has been a long-time resident of Harford County and has devoted himself to serving his community. He has been married to his wife, Shirley for 47 years, is the father of four children and the grandfather of six. He is a member of Fawn Grove Church of the Nazarene and has been a Sunday School teacher for over 40 years.
Bob has traveled on a number of Work and Witness trips to Central and South America, and the Philippines. He also worked in New York City after 9/11. He has aided in the building of shelter facilities and spiritual encouragement. In Annapolis, he is respected as a Christian Legislator and his faith has led him to participate in the March of Life, and to sponsor many pieces of family values legislation.
On September 1, 1954, with a little financing and a lot of hard work, Bob began living out the American Dream by co-founding Harford Sanitation Services, Inc. From the business’ humble beginnings of one truck and two people, Bob now proudly states that his business employs 120 people, manages a fleet of 55 trucks, and remains in business after 51 years of service to the residents of Harford County.
When Bob is not performing Senate or business duties, he is volunteering in community organizations. One of his greatest joys is working with youth. One of his greatest honors is to be able to present a Senatorial Citation from the Senate of Maryland to each Eagle Scout of Harford County at his Court of Honor. Bob participates in mentoring programs, helped to establish the youth soccer league in Harford County, and was a Big Brother. He has served on the Harford Technical High School Business Advisory Board and on the Harford County Business Roundtable for Education.
Bob was awarded honorary membership in the Maryland Student Legislature, a non-partisan group of college students interested in exploring the many facets of state government. He is a member of the Harford Christian Foundation, The Salvation Army Board, and Crime Solvers. He has worked with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and during his many years of community service has received numerous awards including the Man of the Year award from the Knights of Columbus in 1990.
Bob attributes his happiness and success in life to being blessed by God, as he serves his community. His faith is his foundation for all areas of his life. He is tireless in his efforts to help others and is well known to community service organizations. He feels “giving back is far better than receiving.” Bob Hooper is a compassionate man who works to improve the world around him.
Here is Hooper’s legislative biography:
J. ROBERT HOOPER (1936-2008)
Republican, District 35, Harford County
Member of Senate, January 13, 1999 to December 31, 2007. Member, Finance Committee, 2007; Special Committee on Substance Abuse, 2003-07; Joint Committee on Access to Mental Health Services, 2005-07; Executive Nominations Committee, 2007. Member, Finance Committee, 1999-2006 (unemployment insurance benefits-adjustment work group, 1999-2000; division of labor & industry sunset evaluation work group, 2003); Joint Subcommittee on Program Open Space and Agricultural Land Preservation, 1999-2006; Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, 2007 (education subcommittee, 2007; environment subcommittee, 2007; ethics & election law subcommittee, 2007; special committee on renewables & clean energy, 2007). Member, Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, 2001-07; Maryland Rural Caucus, 2002-07; Taxpayers Protection Caucus, 2003-07; Maryland Veterans Caucus, 2005-07.
Member, County Council, Harford County, 1982-90; Governor’s Task Force on Eastern Shore Economic Development, 1999-2001; Bainbridge Development Advisory Board, 1999-2003; Task Force on Lending Equity within Financial Institutions Providing State Depository Services, 2004-05; Governor’s Workforce Investment Board, 2005-07. Past member, Harford Technical High School Business Advisory Board; Harford County Business Roundtable for Education.Born in Baltimore, Maryland, July 27, 1936. Attended Bel Air High School. Owner and operator of Harford Sanitation Services, Inc., 1954-2008. Member, Harford County, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace Chambers of Commerce; Route 40 Business Association. Board of Directors, Salvation Army of Harford County, 1986-2008; Harford County Housing, Inc., 1992-2008; Mason-Dixon Business Association, 1993-2008. Man of the Year, Knights of Columbus, 1990. Member, Harford Christian Foundation; Fawn Grove Church of the Nazarene. Married; four children; six grandchildren. Died in Street, Maryland, January 24, 2008.
As a reporter, I found Sen. Hooper to be the perfect type of legislator with which to work. He might not have made flashy headlines with the bills he sponsored or initiatives he supported, but Hooper worked on solid legislation for his constituents and, more importantly, ALWAYS returned calls from the poor reporters looking for a quote at 10 p.m. on a deadline night. That meant a lot to us, trust me.
Personally, ‘Hoop’ was the sort of guy you liked sitting next to at fire banquets and high school graduation ceremonies. He always had something interesting to talk about and was never trying to foist an agenda on a nearby reporter. He just seemed like a hard-working guy who built himself a successful business and earned a solid reputation as an elected official.
The first Bob Hooper story that comes to mind for me was when I was covering the inauguration of Gov. Bob Ehrlich in January 2003. It was cold on State Circle in Annapolis. Then it started to snow. I had to be there because it was Ehrlich’s big win and he, after all, was a former congressman who represented Harford County. Also, his buddy then-Harford County Executive Jim Harkins was up on stage with Ehrlich’s family and friends.
Anyway, it was cold and snowing and I was wearing a nice suit, but didn’t (and still don’t) have an overcoat. I’m pretty sure I was visibly shivering as we were outside for a few hours before Ehrlich even stepped up to the microphone. That’s when Hooper came over and, in a very grandfatherly way, asked me what I had done with my coat. When I told him there never was a coat, he took off his and handed it over without a word. Despite my protestations, he wouldn’t take no for an answer and I ended up donning the warm coat and having a pretty nice time.
When I was leaving Annapolis at the end of a long day, I remember heading up to Hooper’s office in the senate building. I handed over the coat and thanked him and we chatted for awhile. As I got into my car and cranked the heater for the ride home, I recall thinking what a weird life it must be to be a legislator – stuck down in Annapolis for three months of the year with your family, friends and business all back at home in Harford County. I guess that’s why not everyone runs for office. It’s a calling. And Hoop was made for it.
My favorite Hoop moment comes from a Relay for Life event. It was twilight on an early summer evening out at Susquehanna State Park. Already fighting cancer himself, Hoop was on the mic talking about his old friend Cal Ripken, Sr. He was explaining how they used to play soccer down at Patterson Park, how soccer was more of a contact sport back then. Cal Sr. smoked like a chimney, Hoop said, but he still went out there and ran up and down the soccer field, knocking over guys twice his size. He described visiting his old friend in his last days at the Ripken home in Aberdeen. It wasn’t like when so many other politicians get on the microphone. The crowd was silent — they were listening. There’s another thing I want to say about Hoop. When I first met him as a reporter, my editors had been filling my ears with guilty-until-proven-innocent talk regarding his legal troubles. I never felt I was in a position to judge the facts of the case one way or another, but Hoop always treated me with kindness, and he conducted himself as a man of decency and humility — throughout his legal fight as well as throughout his illness.
What made Bob so special in my mind was the way he quietly went about the business of helping others. Yes, he rang the bell for The Salvation Army at Harford Mall, but the times I saw him he had a hat slung low on his head and no identifying accoutrements. He was not trying to be recognized for caring, he just cared.
He personally funded a grant program through local PTAs to improve literacy among boys, helped sponsor any number of programs for kids and never sought the accolades he deserved. He was the epitome of a humble public servant, which made him a giant among men.
A decent, honest man. Rooted in the community, and always gave more than he got. He will be missed.
Here is the press release Hooper’s family sent out:
Senator Robert Hooper Dies
(Street, MD – January 24, 2008) – – Former Maryland State Senator J. Robert “Bob” Hooper passed away at home tonight (Thursday, January 24, 2008) from colon cancer. He was 71.
The son of the late J.M. Hooper and Virginia Phillips Haugh was born in Baltimore and grew up in Pylesville. He attended the old Highland Elementary School, and graduated from Bel Air High School. Soccer played an important role in his childhood. As a smaller boy, Hooper prided himself in his ability to keep up and play with the older boys because of his “hard-nosed” nature and dogged determination to win. He would continue to play throughout his life, and was instrumental in helping create Harford County’s first youth Soccer League.
On September 1, 1954, with a little bit of financing and a lot of hard work, Hooper founded Harford Sanitation Services, Inc (HSS). Hooper grew the company from one truck and two employees to a company that boasts a fleet of over 50 trucks and employs nearly 120 people. Having operated for more than 50 years, HSS has become an easily recognized and well-respected business in the Harford County community.
In addition to running his business, Hooper was highly involved in state and local politics. In 1998, he was elected to the State Senate to represent the people of the 35th Legislative District. He was easily re-elected to that seat two more times in 2002 and 2006. Bob prided himself in being a Christian legislator, who focused on developing common sense solutions to today’s problems. Amongst his legislative accomplishments were an act to require medical providers in Harford County to alert the authorities when they receive a patient with injuries inflicted by a deadly weapon, an act requiring for profit institutions of higher education to disclose that their degrees and credits may not easily transfer to traditional colleges, and an act establishing the first ever requirement that schools disclose contaminated water to parents. Prior to serving in the Senate, Hooper served two full terms on the Harford County Council representing District D.
Hooper’s service to the community, however, was not centered around politics. He was an active member of Fawn Grove Church of the Nazarene, where he served on the church board and taught Sunday school. His strong faith and sense of duty also called him to participate in many work and witness trips to Central America and New York City following 9/11. Around Christmastime, it was not uncommon to see Bob outside the Harford Mall ringing Bells for Salvation Army. He served on the Board of the Salvation Army since 1985.
Believing in the value of providing our youth with a strong foundation, Hooper supported many organizations that provided positive outlets for our children. As an elected official, Hooper often bragged that his favorite part of the job was attending Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremonies. He truly believed in Scouting and the values it promoted. Each July, Hooper demonstrated his support of the 4-H program with his attendance at the livestock sale. Never one for spending too much, Hooper broke that rule at this event each year. He often bought a number of steer and hogs to support the 4-Hers and gave the meat to his employees at HSS. Hooper also served as a volunteer in the Best Buddies and Big Brothers programs.
Other community organizations Hooper supported include the Jaycees, Harford County Chamber of Commerce, the Route 40 Business Association, Mason-Dixon Business Association, and the Harford County Republican Club.
Hooper’s life of service has been recognized and honored by many organizations. He is the recipient of the Knight’s of Columbus Man of the Year Award, the Virginia Scotten Award, the Harford County Living Treasure Award and an Honorary Membership in the Maryland Student Legislature, a non-partisan organization that promotes active participation in the democratic process amongst college students.
He is survived by Shirley Hooper (nee Cullum), his wife of 50 years. The two were married on Christmas Eve 1957, because it was Shirley’s favorite day of the year. In addition to his wife, Hooper is survived by his children Bobby and Terri Hooper of Street; Cindy and Ben Hushon of Delta, PA; Terrie and Mike Fraer of Abingdon; Scott and Tammy Hooper of Delta, PA; 6 grandchildren and 6 step-grandchildren.
My first memory of Bob Hooper was in 1988 when I was helping the children at my kids’ elementary school start a community recycling program. Bob joined us often as the kids sorted and separated the dropped off garbage into sectioned rolloffs. He and I had many an animated discussion re the efficacy of recyling, with him sharing his pragmatic view that there wasn’t a market for the stuff- and alot of it would end up in the landfill regardless of our efforts. I argued that it didn’t matter – what we were doing was fostering a sense of active reponsibility for the environment and community service in our kids, and that alone was worth it. Bob shook his head at me- but he continued to come and help in any way he could. We agreed to disagree. For the next 20 years, we continued to look at the elephant from different angles. I always knew where Bob stood and despite our differences he always listened and always treated me with respect- and the feeling was always mutual. Wish I could say as much for our current crop of politico’s- they should take a page out of this fine gentleman’s book.
Here are the viewing and funeral arrangements:
Viewings will be held for Sen. Hooper at the Bel Air Church of the Nazarene (Rt. 1 just north of Hickory) on Monday, January 28 from noon until 3:00 p.m. and from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. The funeral will be held at the same location on Tuesday, January 29th at as yet undetermined time. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army or the Highland School.
A good guy, I’d echo all of the above. Especially the fire banquets, I photographed many at a time when a lot of the local volunteer companies hated the local media for one scandal or another, and he was always the friendly face in the room.
He was one of those rare politicians who seemed to understand the big picture, of how stories and power rises and falls, but there is still the day to day dignity of public service that had to be respected.
And to see him sitting back in his chair in the senate chamber or hanging onto the side of one of his garbage trucks because some snot nosed photographer needs a portrait, he clearly loved it.
If the general public only knew the truth about Bob Hooper they would be appalled.
vietnam vet says
Bobby actually started his business in 1953. at his fathers farmette ( 13 acres) hauling scrap metal and soda bottles etc. behind the barn. his brothers ronnie and david are just like him.and then there was a sister patty.
rest in peace bobby
Kyle Bosley says
Sen Hooper was a super nice guy. He came to my Young Marines graduation and presented everyone with a citation. Whenever I would see him he always took the time to pat me on the head and ask how I was doing. I’m going to miss “Mr. Bob”.
As an employee of Bob Hooper, you did not work for him, you worked with him. Your family became part of his family. Ms. Shirley always remembered your birthday. There were no adjustments that could not be accomodated when it come to family needs and schedules. It was great to work in atmosphere of true concern for other people’s plights and a keen interest in doing things that just made good sense.
Robert was a great guy. I first met him when I re located from ny in about 1990. He was always a straight shooter. We had some buisness dealings together in the recycling buisness and he was always exactly what you saw. I often confided in him for feed back and advice. He was brutally honest yet very understanding. He would never leave you hanging in the wind. He tought me one thing…be good to people and be your self. He always gave somthing back when and where possible. He beleived that there is truly a win win in buisness and life where no one has to loose for you to be a winner. What a world it would be if there were more like him. God bless my friend ,mentor and his family especialy Shirley.
Richie Clements says
The anonymous post of jan 30 at 6:38 pm (the one before this) was me. Richie Clements.