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LaDonna Hopkins spent her life working to support marriages and families, promoting nonprofit organizations, and encouraging philanthropy and charitable works.
The Paul and LaDonna Hopkins Center, a branch program of Centro Savila, located in La Mesa Presbyterian Church, was named to honor her and her husband, Paul Hopkins. The center provides bilingual and bicultural behavioral health and social services to people, regardless of their ability to pay.
Described by those who knew her as strong, kind, thoughtful, generous, grateful and loving, Hopkins, 78, died on April 8 from a heart condition, said her husband of nearly 57 years. She had also recently been treated for esophageal cancer, he said.
Hopkins was born LaDonna Janzen to Abe and Lydia Janzen in Enid, Oklahoma. She and her brother, Gary, were raised in the Mennonite tradition on the family farm, where they drove tractors and harvested wheat. During the school year, LaDonna played basketball and marimba.
It was while attending Phillips University in Enid, which was affiliated with the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, that she met her future husband.
“I was a ministerial student at the time and she was dating a friend of mine,” said Paul Hopkins. “I thought she looked pretty cute and we started going out and then we ended up together.” The couple married in 1965 and had two children, daughter Sarah, and son Sean, who died nine years ago from a heart ailment.
“My parents were divorced, so I grew up in a family with a mother and a sister, and I admire strong women,” Paul said. “LaDonna was a strong woman, she was also a kind and very loving woman, very talented in terms of the work she did, but also in the way she was a friend as well as a mother and a wife.”
Following graduation, LaDonna taught children with developmental delays for several years in Enid while Paul finished his seminary education. The couple subsequently took positions with the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, and with nonprofit organizations, working in Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina and Texas. They moved to Albuquerque in 1992 when Paul took a job as CEO for the Samaritan Counseling Center, and LaDonna was the first full-time executive director of Habitat for Humanity Albuquerque.
She later worked in donor relations and then as vice president for United Way of Central New Mexico. She retired in 2010 but continued to serve as a consultant with many nonprofits.
Her husband, who retired last year as a mental health therapist, said as word spread about LaDonna’s death, many people contacted him to offer condolences. “They said she was an incredibly kind and thoughtful person, that she was generous and gracious, and that she taught people how to be grateful.”
One of those offering condolences was longtime friend Bill Wagner, executive director of Centro Savila. “LaDonna advocated and did a lot of philanthropy work, making sure that arts, culture, health care and other resources are available to everyone in our community, regardless of their ability to pay for them, and regardless of their race or ethnicity,” he said.
“I think she embodied the spirit of our mission (at Centro Savila), which is to build more engagement in the community and create a healthier society – and she did that by asking questions, paying attention, and listening to people whose voices often don’t make it into the news or influence policy makers,” Wagner said.
According to the Rev. Trey Hammond, retired pastor at La Mesa Presbyterian Church in the International District, and another longtime friend: “LaDonna was just so smart and so talented in the work she did in the nonprofit world. She wasn’t a bureaucrat, she was just somebody who cared about the work and the organizations. There was a spirit of competence and caring and commitment that just made her remarkable. She really was kind of a public treasure for Albuquerque.”
LaDonna Hopkins is survived by her husband, Paul, of Albuquerque; daughter, Sarah Tolch, and her husband, Andy Tolch, and their daughter, Amelia Tolch, all of St. Louis; daughter-in-law, Naomi Elizabeth Montoya, of Albuquerque; brother, Gary Janzen, of Enid; and numerous other relatives and friends.
A celebration of her life will be held at 1 p.m. May 3 at the First Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque.