Paul S. Ropp, PhD, died on April 14, 2019 of metastatic melanoma at his home in Worcester at age 75. He was a Professor of History at Clark University for 26 years before he retired in 2010, a founding board member of the Center for Nonviolent Solutions and an active member of the First Unitarian Church.
Paul was born March 25, 1944 on a farm in Normal, IL to Peter and Ann (Kropf) Ropp where he was surrounded by an adoring grandmother, doting aunts and a large extended family. His formative years were influenced by the Mennonite Church, 4-H Clubs and the hard work of dairy farming. He graduated from Normal Community High School in 1962.
Paul leaves his wife of 53 years, Marjorie (Liechty) Ropp; two sons, Andrew and his wife Rachel of Santa Fe, NM, Benjamin and his wife Jordan Dooms of Wichita, KS; a daughter Amy and her husband Todd Bezrutczyk; and three grandchildren, Christopher (CJ) Bezrutczyk, Simone Ropp and Silas Ropp. He is survived by two brothers Ronald Ropp (Martha Jo) of Normal, IL and Allen Ropp (Shirley) of Belmond, IA.
In his pursuit of life beyond the farm, Paul earned his BA from Bluffton College (a Mennonite college in Bluffton, OH) and his MA and PhD (1974) in East Asian and Chinese History from the University of Michigan. His graduate study included Japanese and Chinese languages and he was still fluent in Chinese until the end. He taught for one year each at State College of Arkansas (Conway, AR) and McGill University (Montreal), 10 years at University of Memphis and 25 plus years at Clark University (Worcester). In his retirement he found a way to use his expertise in East Asian History and culture by giving destination lectures on cruise ships throughout SE Asia, Taiwan, China and Japan.
Paul was the author of three books; China in World History (2010); Banished Immortal: Searching for Shuangqing, China’s Peasant Woman Poet (2001); and Dissent in Early Modern China: “Ju-lin wai-shih” and Ch’ing Social Criticism (1981); editor of Heritage of China: Contemporary Perspectives on Chinese Civilization (1990); and author of numerous articles.
For over 25 years, Paul was active in the First Unitarian Church of Worcester, as a choir member, as Chair of the music committee, as a member of the Social Action committee, as former Assessor and former Moderator. One of Paul’s passions was working for peace and nonviolence in Worcester and beyond. He was Chair of the Board of the Center for Nonviolent Solutions, educating young people in nonviolent responses to conflict. He sang with the Unitonians, a barbershop quartet, formed with friends from First U around Paul’s long-time love for barbershop music.
Paul was an avid reader and follower of current events who appreciated the many ironies of modern life. His humor and wit enlivened his conversations with family and friends. Since retirement Paul wrote frequent opinion pieces for the “As I See It” column in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, giving voice to his outrage against misguided politics and foreign policy, and his conviction that knowledge of the past must inform present actions.
In his retirement, Paul turned his attention back to his roots on the Illinois prairie. He transcribed his mother’s diary as a farm wife and nurse that she kept for over 70 years. He transcribed over 2000 pages of the writings of his grandfather, Edwin Oliver Ropp, and recently finished a lengthy manuscript Prairie Poet, Rural Radical (yet unpublished) of this poet-pacifist-socialist-vegetarian-philosopher farmer who died before Paul was born.
In 2009 Paul facilitated his daughter Amy’s re-connecting with her birth family, the Wu Family, in Hualien, Taiwan. This wonderful reunion and subsequent frequent visits with our Taiwan Family, with Paul interpreting, enriched all of our lives.
He donated his body to the Anatomical Gifts Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. After cremation, his ashes will be buried in the Ropp Cemetery in Normal, IL, two miles from his childhood home, alongside those of his Ropp ancesters.
A memorial service will be held at the First Unitarian Church of Worcester, 90 Main Street, on Saturday, April 27 at 3:00 PM, followed by a reception at the Church. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the First Unitarian Church, 90 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608 or the Center for Nonviolent Solutions, 901 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602.
Paul’s family wishes to thank the VNA Care Hospice Team for the compassionate care they provided during Paul’s last days.
Arrangements are being directed by Alfred Roy & Sons Funeral Home, 12 Hammond Street, Worcester, MA 01610. Condolence messages can be submitted to the guestbook at www.royfuneral.com or at CaringBridge.org website.