Bernice B. Hoeper, deaf foundation founder

Bernice B. Hoeper, who founded the A. Eugene Hoeper Foundation, Deaf Outreach, has died.

Bernice B. Hoeper, who founded the A. Eugene Hoeper Foundation, Deaf Outreach, died April 23 of colon cancer at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown. She was 88.

The daughter of Edwin Borchardt and Lorena Borchardt, farmers, the former Bernice Borchardt was born and raised in Hamburg, Wis.

She graduated in 1944 from Merrill High School in Merrill, Wis., and in 1953, married A. Eugene Hoeper, who was an inspector for Marathon Electric Co. in Wausau, Wis.

While living in Wausau, she worked as an executive secretary for Employers Insurance Co. of Wausau, until she and her husband moved to Columbia.

Mrs. Hoeper was 18 when she lost her hearing after suffering from spinal meningitis. Her husband was born deaf and was a graduate of the Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delavan, Wis.

She was a 1972 graduate of Gallaudet College in Washington, and was the first deaf woman to earn a master's degree in social work in 1975 from the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore.

Mrs. Hoeper, who "spoke in a clear voice while signing," reported The Evening Sun in a 1975 article, worked as coordinator, deaf services, for the Lutheran Mission Society of Maryland.

"To do social work among the deaf, it is helpful to be a member of the deaf community," she said in the interview. "Deaf social workers are badly needed because you have to be deaf to really understand the feelings of deaf people."

In 1988, the Columbia resident established the A. Eugene Hoeper Foundation, Deaf Outreach, that focused on providing services to home-bound deaf people. She continued working until suffering a stroke last year.

Her husband, for whom the foundation was named, died in 1987.

Mrs. Hoeper, who was fluent in German, enjoyed cooking, especially German cuisine, family members said. She also liked collecting owls, which she used to decorate her home.

Since 2014, Mrs. Hoeper had been living at the Augsburg Home and Lutheran Village in Lochearn.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at Calvary Lutheran Church, 9545 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring.

Mrs. Hoeper is survived by a brother, Henry Borchardt of Hamburg, Wis.; a cousin; and several nieces and nephews.

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