Robert Hopkins

Robert W. “Hoppy” Hopkins, 63, a former Shelter Island Heights fire chief and long-time Suffolk County Fire Academy trainer and supervisor, died on Friday, August 31, 2012 at the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank.

Although Mr. Hopkins moved from Shelter Island to Cutchogue 33 years ago, he returned to the Island frequently to maintain his friendships with members of the Shelter Island Fire Department, according to Richie Surozenski, chairman of the department’s Board of Fire Commissioners.

“Once a chief, always a chief,” Mr. Surozenski said of Mr. Hopkins. “He was just a great guy.”

It was Mr. Hopkins who joined Mr. Surozenski in initiating the tradition of floating a lit Christmas tree in Chase Creek each year, he said.

Chief John D’Amato noted that Mr. Hopkins had trained many of today’s Shelter Island firefighters as well as those from other Suffolk County fire departments.

Mr. Hopkins was a former commander of the Shelter Island American Legion Post.

American Legion and Firematic services were held Tuesday at DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Mattituck with funeral services Wednesday morning at the funeral home with the Rev. Peter DeSanctis of Our Lady of the Isle R.C. Church officiating. Interment, with U.S. Navy honors, was at Calverton National Cemetery.

Mr. Hopkins was a Suffolk County Veterans Services officer and a frequent lobbyist in Albany for veterans’ interests, Chief D’Amato said.

Born April 27, 1949 in Brooklyn to Robert and Harriet (Case) Hopkins, Mr. Hopkins married Deborah Simms on Shelter Island on August 16, 1975.

He was a graduate of Shelter Island High School and served in the U.S. Navy for two years during the Vietnam era. He was honorably discharged as an ensign third class.

Before joining the county’s Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Hopkins worked for Cutchogue Automotive.

Mr. Hopkins is survived by his wife; a son, Robert W. Hopkins Jr. of Dallas, Texas; and a sister, Barbara Reeves of Shelter Island.

The family requested donations in Mr. Hopkins name be made to East End Hospice or the Shelter Island Fire Department.