Having graduated from the Kentucky Mortuary School and officially licensed in 1949, Walter Jr., known in the Barbourville community as Tub knew he wanted to serve the families of Knox County as his father did.
After serving in WWII as a nose gunner with the Eighth Air Force, Tub joined his family's business. Since then Tub has seen many changes in the funeral profession. Back in those days, the funeral director prepared the deceased then the visitation and funeral service was held either at the residence or in a church. This practice changed by the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Today, all of the preparation and the majority of visitation and funeral services are held in funeral homes. When Tub first entered the business, funeral homes provided ambulance service to the community. This was the case locally until Knox County took over this service in the mid-1970’s.
Walter once said that in 21st Century, most funeral services are approximately 40 minutes in length and the visitation is one evening prior to the day of the funeral. Not that many years ago, families would have two days and nights of visitation, and funeral services lasted well over an hour. Accessibility to cemeteries in southeastern Kentucky has greatly improved in the last 50 years. “Most of our local cemeteries are easily accessible by car today, whereas years ago, we had to climb mountains and walk through fields,” Tub said.
He noted that more people than ever are talking about death and preparing in advance for it. Death is a natural part of life, but years ago most people did not want to talk about it, let alone prearrange and pay for it in advance. “Today’s families recognize the advantages of preplanning,” Tub said. He added that one’s money is fully protected and the family is spared from financial worries. Funeral costs have risen from $250 to $400 in the 1940’s to several thousand dollars today. Tub said, “My family has always tried to help people plan for funerals and to work with them on the best way to pay for services.”
Since Tub entered funeral service, he had seen many funeral homes in the state, even in Barbourville, sell out to large national corporations. “Our family’s commitment of providing quality funeral goods and services at reasonable prices to the families of Knox County in an independent family owned and operated funeral home continues. “Being family owned allows us to offer more personal service at lower prices than the large corporations. How? Because we don’t have to answer to stockholders, only to the families we are privileged to serve,” Tub said.
“Although all aspects of our job are not always pleasant, it is worth it when you see someone we have served to smile again,” Tub said. “To know that we have been a part of helping a family through the loss of a loved one is very rewarding.”
Having been associated with funeral service in Knox County for more than 32 years, Tub retired in 1981. At that time, he did not for see what would come 8 years later.
1989 - The Next Generation to Serve Knox Countians
Having been reared in the county and family tradition of a professional funeral director, Joe decided that serving the families of Knox County in the funeral profession was his calling. He moved forward with his dreams by completing his studies at the Mid America College and Funeral Service in Jefferson, Indiana and serving families in Louisville and Lexington at Pearson Funeral Home and Milward Funeral Directors.
In anticipation of his youngest son, Joe completing his mortuary studies and apprenticeship, a family decision was made to open the newest and only funeral home to be family owned and operated by licensed funeral directors and embalmers in Knox County.
On May 18, 1989, ground was broken for the new Knox Funeral Home. The building would encompass 7,980 square feet and be constructed of brick and metal. It includes offices, a chapel, visitation rooms, family room, a lounge, restrooms, preparation room, a selection room, garage, a small apartment and a front porch. The building was built for a capacity of approximately 200 people.
On February 18, 1990, Walter C. “Tub” Hopper Jr. became active once again in the funeral business in Knox County with two of his three sons, Joe and David, by his side when they founded Knox Funeral Home in Barbourville at 325 Knox Street, Barbourville, KY.
Walter C. Hopper, Jr. recognized for 50 years of funeral service
On June 10, 1999, the Funeral Directors Association of Kentucky (FDAK) recognized Barbourville funeral director and embalmer, Walter C. Hopper, Jr. for 50 years of service in the funeral profession and awarded its 50 year service pin at the 117th Annual Kentucky Funeral Directors Convention in Louisville, KY. Mr. Hopper was among forty funeral directors from across the state who were recognized.
In Memory of Walter C. Hopper 1922-2009
Prior to his death, Tub was an active member of the community as Knox County Coroner, serving on the Barbourville City Council and on the Knox County Hospital Board of Directors.
Tub received his 50-year pin for his service as a member of the Masonic Lodge 187 F&AM and served as president of the Knox County Lions Club.
Following in his father’s footsteps
It is reassuring that there are people like Tub Hopper who have provided perspective from a career that spanned half a century in the funeral service to Knox County. “I drew upon the education and experience that my father gained in the first half of the twentieth century. Now, I’m fortunate to be able to pass along almost a century of information to my son who will be even better prepared to serve the families in the community we love and call home,” said Tub.