Russell Publications

northern Illinois, June 12, 2008

Retired, but Busy

by Regina Nuttall

WYNN HOPKINS of Crete sits in his living room, surrounded by items from his collections. Wynn taught chemistry and physics at Crete- Monee high school for 30 years, retiring in 2001. He refuses, however, to retire from life. He is a member of several clubs and organizations, mostly scientific. He also has passion for photography.

-photo by Regina Nuttall


WYNN IS SHOWN on a fishing trip at age 10 with his sister, Lorelee, and their father, Lloyd.

Image courtesy of Wynn Hopkins


Wynn Hopkins never wanted money. He wanted love. Or maybe a kind, good looking kind woman in his life. So he says.

Recently, after several years of dating different ladies he admitted "Life is good, but it appears that I'll not find someone to replace my dear late wife, Joan".

In early 1991 his wife, Joan, found that she had developed a rare type of inflammatory breast cancer. A lot of effort and agony went into saving her but she passed away in January of 1993.

Wynn was left with two young daughters who grieved deeply. Over the following years Wynn had to be the best parent he could be and his daughters are now both doing well. They each have given him fine grandchildren that he adores.


Wynn retired from teaching in 2001, but he doesn't want to retire from life. He has a house full of books and unusual items gathered over many years. He joins clubs and organizations of all kinds, mostly scientific. He is a member of the Chicago Area Conservation Group - an organization dedicated to art conservation. He is president of the State Microscopical Society of Illinois (SMSI). SMSI was founded in 1869 and is the second oldest microscopical society in the world. The only one older is the Royal Microscopical Society of England (RMS), but it only predates SMSI by four years.

He is a long time member of the "Wild Ones", a nature society that grows and exhibits native wild plants. He belongs to INPS, the Illinois Native Plant Society.

This sounds like an extremely busy life, but Wynn doesn't agree.

Every spring finds him a little depressed and lonely. Somehow the world doesn't look quite right. A few pounds gained over the winter only makes things worse, he said.

"It's not me", Wynn said looking at photos we shot for this article. "Or maybe you're being too honest. Anyway, let's re do them!"

Our culture admires the young and beautiful. But everything and everybody ages and we don't talk enough about the good side of it. Time brings not only wrinkles and gray hair, but also invaluable experience and the possibility of becoming wiser. Wynn isn't always sure.

He often remembers the past with his late wife and two daughters. He thinks often of his life in teaching. He taught science in high schools for 30 years. For all those years he was surrounded by people. A teacher is by definition the center of attention in the room. Being in a crowd all the time became his second nature. While retirement has its advantages, it doesn't suite him.

A teacher is a source of information and Wynn certainly is that. Just ask him and he'll tell you where to buy a good book, specialty baked goods, or unusual jewelry. He'll give you directions to dozens of places in Chicago where you can find a good concert or lecture. He will even send you the schedules of all kinds of events. Listen to him, you get the sense that he is everywhere.

"I always study something. I read a lot", Wynn says, pointing to a big pile of books on his living room table.

Maybe that's why he can so answer many questions about almost anything scientific. Ask him about an animal, bug or plants and you'll get not only the name of the particular creature in English but often in Latin too. If he will doesn't know he isn't satisfied until he finds out. He may even e-mail you the answer A few days later. He will search for it on Internet, drive to the library or even call an expert on the subject.


WYNN ENJOYS feeding deer in his backyard.

-photo by Regina Nuttall


Often the answer can be found in his own bookshelves.

Last year he found a strange and beautiful insect perched on his front door. He was curious and cautiously moved it into his living room. It settled on one of his jungle of plants and sat there while Wynn looked through his reference books. Finally he found it.

It was a Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus) and has a poisonous sting. He decided that it really shouldn't be in the house, but when he looked for it, it was gone. It took him the whole next week to find it.

Moments like this makes him smile and remember his youth.

PICTURED IS a small portion of Wynn's extensive bug collection.

-photo by Regina Nuttall


GOVERNOR DODGE STATE PARK in Dodgeville, Wis., copper metal transfer on Japanese art paper, by Wynn Hopkins

Wynn was born to a mother who was not prepared to raise him. At 14 months old he was adopted by Lloyd and Loretta Hopkins. They were unable to have children of their own, but very much wanted to be parents. Wynn always knew that the couple who raised him were not his biological mom and dad but to this day can only think of them as his real parents.

After many years, he located his biological parents, but he always thinks of his adoptive parents as Mom and Dad. He thinks of them with capitals M and D. "They were the best parents you can imagine", he says. "They supported me in all ways and I am who I am thanks to them."

Wynn doesn't like to think about what might have happened if he had been raised by his biological parents.

"I have 5 half sisters and 2 half brothers and I am only one with a college degree. I think they didn't grow up in a loving environment like I did. My adoptive parents gave college educations not only to me but to my sister. They adopted her too. They loved each other and us very much."

Wynn was a gifted student. At ten he started to form an interest in chemical engineering and created his own lab in the house. A few years later began be deeply interested in chemistry. By the age of fifteen, he knew he was going to study chemistry and physics. He has masters degrees in both chemistry and physics as well as a teaching degree from Illinois State University.

Wynn loved teaching. He still feels a connection with young people and even tutors for free if somebody needs help in physics or chemistry. One student from Crete- Monee high school told me that after few evenings with Wynn she began understand the material much better.

Wynn came to the south suburbs to teach high school science in the fall of 1967. In July of the next year he married Joan Alongi and they moved to Park Forest.

In December of 1969 his first daughter, Julie was born and in the fall of 1971 he joined the staff of Crete-Monee High School, where he would teach for the next 30 years.

In August of 1977 his daughter, Alison was born. He worked hard because he felt responsible for those students that were heading off to college and would be to be taking courses in chemistry or physics. He always wanted to make sure they were as prepared as possible for the rigors of college science. Through the years a number of former students have looked him up to thank him for his efforts. He has positively touched the lives of many, many students and their families.

* * *

The family who raised him were passionate photographers.

His grandmother photographed, as did his Dad, encouraging little Wynn.

Wynn began to love the camera and it became his frequent companion. In the early 70's he started exhibiting his photography at local fairs and also worked as the only photographer of the New Community Enterprise, who developed University Park.

Wynn also worked as the store photographer for Marshall Field & Company for their River Oaks and Park Forest stores.

As time passed, his photography progressed from simple monochromatic photographic prints to color, dye transfer prints, photo-silkscreen, Daguerreotypes and etching in copper plates. He also made etchings from those plates.

He continued to expand and explore the etching process and made etched-through foil. He made artwork from thick solid copper plated onto a conductive mandrill.

Today his artistic is exploring the patination of brass foil embossments and an entirely new process of photographically transferring copper metal powders to Japanese art papers. The powders are really interesting because they come in so many tints.

* * *

If you would like to meet Wynn Hopkins, view his art works, and chat about science, he will be at the Griffith Art Fair July 19-20 in Griffith, Ind. Last year he won the first place award in the graphics division there. He will also be at an art fair September 20-21 in Park Forest Plaza, Park Forest.


CALUMET RIVER in Chicago, copper metal transfer on Japanese art paper, by Wynn Hopkins.

FOXTAIL, COPPER METAL transfer on blue Japanese paper, by Wynn Hopkins.

Related Links
State Microscopial Society of Illinois