Lois (Johnson) Hopkins talks about meeting her husband, Sanders Hopkins Jr.
Sanders caught my eye in 1955 while we were attending Southside High School in Blairs, Virginia. I was in the eighth grade, and he was a senior. I thought he was so cute, though he paid absolutely no attention to me.
Shortly after, I moved to St. Albans, Queens, to live with my mother and attended Andrew Jackson High School. Later that year, while visiting my father back in Virginia, I stopped in a photo shop to get prints made. The shop owner asked if he could introduce me to his nephew. I said sure. After he called him, in walks Sanders, the same guy I had a crush on earlier. He was so handsome standing there in his sailor suit! I was smitten. He said that after high school, he had enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, on the USS Iowa. We talked for a while, exchanged addresses and promised to keep in touch. Throughout his four-year deployment, we exchanged letters, which I still have. In 1959 I graduated from high school. As soon as Sanders was discharged, he came to find me in New York.
Our first date was at Coney Island along with my brother, Hubert, and his girlfriend, now wife, Triff. We had a great time playing arcade games and riding the merry-go-round. I was afraid of the big rides, but they enjoyed them.
We soon dated exclusively, and shortly after Sanders asked me to marry him. We married Oct. 8, 1960, at my mother’s home and moved to an apartment in Manhattan. A year later we welcomed our first daughter. We bought a house in Jamaica, Queens, in 1967. We loved taking the kids to our special place, Coney Island, on summer weekends. (I still didn’t go on the big rides.)
In June 1975 we bought our dream home in Melville, where we live today. A year later, we welcomed our fifth child. With five children and a mortgage, things were challenging. I stopped working as an X-ray technician and stayed at home while Sanders worked two full-time jobs as a radiologic technologist at three Long Island hospitals.
Sanders and I enjoyed many cruises. Our favorite ship was the Queen Mary 2, the grandest of its time. We’ve traveled the world and liked Hawaii, Europe and the Caribbean the most.
Sanders loved his job, but in 2014, when he was 79, I finally convinced him to enjoy the retirement he had earned.
Now we like staying close to home. I enjoy watching soap operas, tennis and football, but I especially love cooking elaborate meals for my family. I had opened Charlie’s Soul Food Diner in Wheatley Heights in the '90s and ran it for eight years, cooking the food and desserts myself. I still get requests for my famous lemon cake and sweet potato pie!
Sanders is a very unusual and caring family man. My mother and father both adored him. My father said my husband was a better man than he ever was. Our grandchildren feel the same way. They used to rush through their Sunday meal to be the first to sit on his lap.
Before the pandemic, Sanders enjoyed taking exercise classes, doing yoga and walking. We look forward to visits from our five children, their spouses, eight grandkids and one great-grandson. We celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary quietly, by ourselves, because of COVID-19.
I’m blessed to have married such a wonderful and caring man and look forward to many more years. As my father used to often say about Sanders, "They broke the mold after that fine man was born."
— With Ann Donahue-Smukler
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