John & Louise Adams Ropp

John & Louise Adams Ropp

Long-time Avondale residents John and Louis Ropp have a lot to celebrate this year.
On July 28, the couple will celebrate John’s 90th birthday followed by their 54th wedding anniversary in September.

Questions about the Ropps’ early courtship brings heartfelt laughter from Louise. John patiently shakes his head and looks skyward, well aware of what’s coming.

Ropp_02“We met at a dinner party in April of 1961. On our first date we were driving along and John asked me how old I was. When I answered 23, he drove his Ford Convertible straight into a ditch at Grand Avenue and Ortega Boulevard,” Louise said. Her future husband was 36, the only bachelor among his friends. But the age difference didn’t matter as they married September 1961 in St. John’s Cathedral.

The couple often dined and danced at the George Washington Hotel, where they sometimes saw movie stars. They attended symphony performances and afterwards enjoyed cheesecake at Leb’s Delicatessen. The riverfront Lobster House was also a favorite. Louise recalls when her brother took her to a local nightclub, unaware that Sally Rand would be performing her famous Fan Dance.

“She wore a body stocking, nothing really showed at all. At the end she stopped and held up the fans…she was so elegant, but quite risqué at the time,” Louise said.

Louise was born in 1938 at St. Vincent’s Hospital to attorney Elliott Adams and his wife Katharine (Ogden) of Palmer Terrace in St. Nicholas. She had three siblings: Elliott (wife Tillie Bowden) of San Marco; sister Katharine Adams Chenoweth, Lawrenceville, NJ; and her late brother Lep Adams. She has two nephews, Lep Adams (wife Katie Jones) and James Adams, all of Avondale.

Louise attended Spring Park Elementary, graduated in 1956 from Bartram School for Girls and from Salem College, where she majored in English and piano. She returned to Jacksonville, taught English, social studies and music at Fletcher High School. She taught piano at JU and in 1984 received her Master’s in Teaching. She taught 20 years at Bartram, then 23 years at Bolles where she also served as Chair of Performing & Fine Arts and directed The Madri-gals choral group. Louise retired in 2013.

Ropp_01John grew up in Mansfield, Ohio, graduated high school in 1943, and served in the military until 1946. He attended Ohio University and played college baseball two years before transferring to Pratt Institute. He graduated in 1951 (with a degree in art illustration) and briefly played semi-professional baseball. John worked for New York City advertising agencies and designed the logo for The $64,000 Question game show.

John’s accidental landing in Jacksonville and in Louise Adams’ life came through friendship with Ohio University buddy Clayton Riley (who established Jacksonville’s Riley-Kirby Vacuum Co). In 1955, tired of working non-stop in New York City, John planned to drive to California for a Disney job. Riley persuaded him to visit Jacksonville enroute.

“Once here I never left,” he said. “Clayton introduced me to Cecil Burns and Glover Taylor, who introduced me to Taylor Hardwick. Hardwick & Lee Architectural firm was located on May Street in 5 Points. He invited me to rent office space and became a close friend. I moved in, opened an art studio and ran a successful advertising business there from 1955-1967.”

In 1967 John relocated to a building he purchased on Rosselle Street (Miller Electric location). He worked there for 27 years with corporate clients including Winn-Dixie, Florida National Bank and Gulf Life Insurance. John Ropp retired in 2005.

Ropp_06The Ropps began their life together in Avondale in 1961 in their first home on Oak Street where they welcomed three children. In 1967 they moved to Ribault Court. In 1969 their fourth child, Adams, joined the family.

“Our Ribault Court home had three bedrooms, two baths. We kept adding on…two more bedrooms, another bath…a large family room. We added a Charleston Courtyard and laid every brick ourselves, down on our knees…I thought I’d never be able to walk again,” Louise said.

Ropp_05Neighborhood parents regularly blocked off the street with orange cones so their children could ride their bicycles. No one ever minded.

“The children trick-or-treated together every Halloween. I kept a closet full of costumes for them to play with year-round,” Louise recalled. “On New Year’s Day they dressed up and paraded down Richmond Street. One year Barbara (Cantrell) Commander led the parade, holding a flag and marching down the street.”

The Ropps included neighbors and friends in family activities. For their holiday party the Sunday before Christmas, each child invited three or four friends plus their families over to the Ropp home. Louise made a piñata of Disney characters from chicken wire filled with torn tissue and candy.

“That was the early Seventies when piñatas were new…the children loved batting that piñata and grabbing candy,” she said. “Then we enjoyed treats and all sang Christmas carols together.”

Adams Ropp remembers playing ferocious Kick the Can summertime games around his house until 10 o’clock at night. A kicked can sent everyone scattering. Word of the game spread quickly with more and more children joining in.

“We kicked the can around our house, but the front and street were ‘Jail’…game boundaries were Talbot, Richmond, Ribault and Hedrick Street. Children joined in from blocks away until 15 to 20 were playing,” said Adams.

Ropp_03The Ropps also liked movie parties where John manned his 8mm projector and movie screen. Louise served platters of food from the meat market on Edgewood Avenue in Murray Hill and hot popcorn. Everyone watched movies or played pool. Louise appreciated Allen’s Grocery which was so close (now where Willie’s and Cowford Trader are located).

The four Ropp children are Willson (wife Adrienne Dreiss) of Darien, Conn. and Houston, Tex.; Katharine “Kate” (husband Andrew Sherrard) of Gainesville; Ella (husband Chris Means) of Atlanta; and Adams (wife Laura Sims) of Ortega. Together they have provided John and Louise with 12 grandchildren.

The Ropps are committed community volunteers. Louise served with the Day Nursery & Kindergarten Association of Duval County (United Way), Colonial Dames, Junior League and directed children’s church choirs for 25 years. John joined the Jacksonville Exchange Club and coached his sons’ Little League baseball teams at NAS for 15 years. Both were Jacksonville Symphony volunteers, who organized the carousel-themed 1968 Symphony Ball.

Louise plays classical piano; John likes jazz. Both enjoy reading, and they’re still active at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, supporting its school and The Bolles School. Since losing a family member to colon cancer, they also support the American Cancer Society and colon cancer research.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

 

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