William H. Hopkins
He spent 50 years with general contracting firm John K. Ruff Inc., serving as president from 1977 until 1995
William Harold Hopkins Jr., who oversaw hundreds of building projects as president of general contractor John K. Ruff Inc., died Wednesday at his Timonium home of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 89.
Hopkins was born in Amissville, Va., the son of William H. Hopkins Sr., a carpenter, and Margaret Hopkins. The family moved to Hampden when Mr. Hopkins was about 3, according to a daughter, Mary Elizabeth Graham, who lives in Manchester.
Mr. Hopkins graduated early from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in1944 and went to the Finger Lakes region of New York to serve in the Navy. He achieved the rank of seaman first class and was honorably discharged in 1946.
“He was very proud of being in the Navy — even in his later years,” his daughter said. “Had a framed picture of his discharge paper.”
Upon returning to Baltimore, Mr. Hopkins studied construction and engineering at the Johns Hopkins University. He was hired as an estimator at John K. Ruff Inc. During his 50 years at the company, he worked his way up and became president in 1977. He remained president of the company until the business closed in 1995, according to his daughter.
During his stint as president, Mr. Hopkins oversaw more than 100 major building projects throughout the Baltimore region. Projects included Loch Raven Elementary, Towson High School, Milford Mill Junior/Senior High, churches, post offices, apartment complexes, and buildings at Morgan State University, the former Villa Julie College (now Stevenson University) and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
“You name it, they built it,” Ms. Graham said.
The business was somewhat tumultuous at times because the company was nonunion.
“It was known for being a merit shop,” Ms. Graham said. “At one point, it was the largest nonunion shop in Baltimore. ... Some people were beaten up. Fortunately, he was never assaulted. But we had a lot of our equipment burned and destroyed. One time, a brick was thrown through the window of our home. It was a very interesting time.”
Mr. Hopkins was a staunch supporter of then-Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer, who shared his vision of improv- ing Baltimore through growth.
“He was a big supporter of the light rail project,” Ms. Graham said. “He really wanted to improve Baltimore and improve opportunities for people in Baltimore. He was a big supporter of that and what William Donald Schaefer was doing for Baltimore — really revitalizing the city.”
Max Stadfeld was the lawyer for John K. Ruff Inc. from 1981 until it closed.
The two became friends “pretty quickly,” according to Mr. Stadfeld, who lives in Eldersburg.
“Bill was a guy that was easy to get to know,” he said. “If Bill told you it was so, it was so.
“He was a generous man. He was a first-class guy,” Mr. Stadfeld said. “The thing that was most impressive about Bill was his loyalty and honesty. He did things the right way. Every time you were with Bill, you would laugh. He was very generous with his time. He will be missed.”
Mr. Hopkins enjoyed spending time with his family.
He met his wife, Marguerite Plummer, at the old Equitable Trust Co. branch in Hampden in 1947, where she worked as a teller.
“He was wonderful,” she said. “He was a gentleman. He was old-school. He was fun. He was polite. He was charming. And I fell in love very quickly. He had beautiful eyes.”
The two went on a group date for Halloween, and she spilled a drink on his leg.
“And that was it,” Ms. Graham said.
The two were married within six months.
“It was a quickie,” his wife said with a laugh.
The couple, who lived in Ocean City for 25 years before moving to the Timonium area, were married for 58 years.
Mr. Hopkins, who loved to golf, was a longtime member of the Hillendale Country Club. He was a Baltimore Colts fan and also loved being on the water.
“He enjoyed boating on the Chesapeake Bay,” Ms. Graham said. “He started with a little motorboat. His last boat was an Egg Harbor motor yacht. He just enjoyed going around visiting Maryland sites like St. Michaels and Annapolis.”
A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Dec. 3 at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, 200 Ware Ave. in Towson.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Hopkins is survived by daughters Debra Bartgis of Towson and Michele Hopkins of Washington, D.C.; and five grandchildren. William H. Hopkins oversaw more than 100 major building projects in the Baltimore area, including schools, churches, post offices and apartment complexes.