Mourners pack church to honor Sen. Hooper

The Baltimore Sun

A standing room crowd of nearly 1,000 filled Bel Air Church of the Nazarene to pay homage to former Sen. J. Robert Hooper, with mourners lining the aisles and spilling out into the foyer.

"My father would say, 'Don't you all have something more important to do today?'" said Terrie Fraer, as she began a tribute to her father.

The comment caused a ripple of gentle laughter during Tuesday's service.

The 71-year-old Hooper, a three-term senator who resigned his seat Dec. 31, died of cancer Jan. 24.

Among the congregated were state and county officials, volunteer firefighters, church leaders and dozens of uniformed Boy Scouts, many of them wearing Eagle Scout Badges that Hooper had awarded in what he said was one of his favorite official duties.

"He used the same words at the Eagle Scout ceremonies -- 'You never stand taller than when you bend over to help someone up,'" said Pastor Ronald Parker.

Hymns and Scripture that Hooper had chosen before his death were interspersed with personal anecdotes of the high-fiving legislator, the business owner and the father of four who taught Sunday school for 40 years.

"On a mission trip to Guatemala after 14 long days in the mountains, Bob had all those people high-fiving after we built their church," the Rev. Terry Snowden said.

The heartiest laughter came when fellow Republican Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus described his last conversation with Hooper during a Senate conference call two weeks ago.

"We talked about the governor going to Ireland," Stoltzfus said. "I hope the governor won't be offended that Bob said, in a weak but feisty voice, 'Can we get him a one-way ticket?'"

Fraer concluded her remarks with a request that others follow her father's example of stewardship.

"He always had too much to do, too much life to live and too many people to help," she said.

At the end of the service, Eagle Scouts lined both sides of the sidewalk leading from the church, acting as an honor guard and offering a final salute to the senator.

"These kids all loved him," said Kim Bachmann, a Fallston mother of four sons.

"He sat with them at ceremonies, not with dignitaries," she said. "He spoke to them on their level. He was really human, a real servant of the people."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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