March 19, 1931 – January 3, 2020
Born in Concord, North Carolina, Mary Dickson Arrowood
– affectionately called “Dickie” by family members and close friends – traced her ancestry back to the American Revolution. The daughter of a Presbyterian minister and one-time college president, Mary was raised in North Carolina. Her birth mother (Mary Murray Arrowood) died when she was age 2 but she was lovingly raised by her father and stepmother, Margaret Murray Arrowood. She was a graduate of Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina, Greensboro).
Mary was a talented athlete. She won recognition in high school as All-State North Carolina in girls basketball, and she excelled also in swimming. Those skills carried on through college, where she graduated with a B.S. degree in Physical Education. Mary then took a job as director of the swimming program at the YWCA in Baltimore, Maryland. There she helped to direct, and also starred in, a synchronized swim production sponsored by the “Baltimore Y”. Swimming remained a favorite activity but tennis became Mary’s major sport during her later years; she competed vigorously into her eighties.
Mary’s accomplishments in music matched her athletic activities. A precocious young pianist, by high school age she was a sought-after accompanist by local performers and groups. Singing was another facet of her musical talents, beginning with choirs in her father’s churches. Upon moving to Baltimore she studied with voice teacher Olga Grether, who started her on a path toward opera. This led to participation in opera singing and acting classes at the famed Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She had a strong, lovely, dramatic soprano voice, and she may have gone far in opera had she followed it professionally.
But marriage intervened. A 1954 blind date with Clifford Hopson, a geology doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University, led to marriage in Sept. 1955 – a union that ﬂourished for more than 64 years. Mary and Cliff were wed by her father, the Rev. Robert Arrowood, at his church in Linden, North Carolina. Their honeymoon in Great Smoky Mountains National Park included backpacking to the summit of Mt. LeConte — the ﬁrst taste of what later became a favorite family activity.
Mary and Cliff lived in Baltimore for the next 9 years. She continued her work part time with the YWCA, and then paused to have babies – Forrest, Erin, and Eric – while Cliff rose to Associate Professor of Geology at Johns Hopkins. Most summers were spent out west on ﬁeld research projects, ﬁrst in the Sierra Nevada (CA) and then at Mt. Rainier (WA). Mary’s love of hiking and camping took root during those summers, even as they raised their young family.
The Hopsons moved to Santa Barbara in 1964, where Cliff accepted appointment as Professor of Geology at UCSB. The family resided in Goleta during 1966-2015. Mary loved camping and hiking and the family raised their young brood accordingly, living summers in campgrounds at Mt. Rainier, Mount St. Helens, the North Cascades, and California Coast Ranges during domestic ﬁeld projects. Mountaineering was part of the drill (i.e., Cliff studied volcanoes), and Mary climbed four of Washington’s ﬁve glacier-clad volcanoes, including the challenging and hazardous Mt. Rainier.
Backpacking, mostly in the High Sierra, was a favorite family activity, continued later with just Mary and Cliff. We count fourteen such trips, plus a backpack trek across Arizona’s Grand Canyon from the north to south rims. When too elderly for backpacking Mary and Cliff took trips into the High Sierra using riding horses and pack mules. Mary was also an accomplished canoeist. The Hopsons owned a canoe for 40 years, using it on innumerable lakes and river runs in the western mountains.
Music, however, always remained an important part of Mary’s life. For many years she maintained an active piano-teaching practice in Goleta, with up to 20 students weekly. Her singing ﬂourished as well. As a member of the Santa Barbara Opera Workshop she sang (in Italian) the leading soprano roles in four major operas: Cavalieria Rusticana (Mascagni), Il Trovatore (Verdi), Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) and Dido and Aeneas (Purcell). She also sang in local recitals, at two restaurants, and participated in an opera program at Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West. In later years she sang with the Santa Barbara Oratorio Chorale and other choral groups. Mary and Cliff attended dozens of operas together in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
But motherhood was her highest priority when the kids came along. She was active in her children’s lives, attentive to their needs yet supervising with a “light hand” that allowed for personal initiative and freedom. She encouraged their love of music, both by listening to performances and by providing instrument music lessons. She contributed to their participation in organized activities by serving as leaders in Boy Scouts and Campﬁre Girls, but she also took them on independent hikes and outings. She effectively guided the family when Cliff was away on overseas ﬁeld projects and oceanographic expeditions. When the grandkids arrived she was an enthusiastic grandmother, traveling long distances to spend time with them. She instinctively understood the joys and responsibilities of parenthood, and excelled in their practice.
In 2015 Mary and Cliff moved from their home in Goleta to Vista Del Monte Retirement Community in Santa Barbara. Life had slowed down at last! But even here they continued car-camping trips in the mountains. But old age ﬁnally caught up: at age 88 Mary suffered a failing respiratory system. At the end she died peacefully in her sleep.
Mary is predeceased by her parents, Robert and Margaret Arrowood, and by her brother Robert Arrowood Jr. She leaves behind her husband Clifford Hopson, her children R. Forrest Hopson (Kim), Erin K. Johnson, Eric R. Hopson (Brenda), her sister Kay Arrowood Hicks, and three beloved grandchildren. A Celebration of Mary’s Life will be held at Vista Del Monte Main Lounge on Saturday, February 1 at 10:30 a.m.
Mary’s family praise the highly skilled and invaluable support given by Central Coast Hospice during her ﬁnal ﬁve months, and we thank them warmly.
Funeral arrangements are by the Neptune Society. In lieu of ﬂowers consider a donation in her name to Opera Santa Barbara or to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.
March 19, 1931 – January 3, 2020