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Couple Celebrates 60 Consecutive Conventions
Marvin and Cathy Hoppenworth
By Barbara A. Schmitz
July 26, 2016 - It’s not unusual to have EAA members who have attended EAA AirVenture Oshkosh for two, three, or even four decades.
But it is unusual to have two members make it to 60 consecutive fly-ins and conventions. Even more unusual is the fact that these two have been married for nearly 62 years.
In 1955, Marvin Hoppenworth attended his first EAA air show and fly-in, staying only one day since they had just returned from vacation. “It was $10 to join or $1 to register,” he recalled. “I joined,” he added, proudly noting that he is EAA 2519.
However, 2016 marks 60 consecutive years that both Hoppenworths have attended AirVenture. “We went to Milwaukee, Rockford, and Oshkosh,” Cathy said. “Since we live in Cedar Rapids, it was easy to make all three sites.”
Marvin was a private pilot and A&P mechanic, and Cathy said she likes doing things with him. The first year they camped at the fly-in, they put a tarp over the back of their pick-up and slept there. They next moved up to a 9-by-9 tent, and when they started having children, moved up to two tents and eventually a camper.
Marvin said their chapter started the emergency repair tent at Rockford, and he served as its chairman for three years. “We used to say that Marshall Turner and I were the father and mother of the tent. He had the ideas and I had the tools.”
Working at the emergency repair tent also had some rewards, like allowing him to meet Bob Hoover. “Bob Hoover actually asked for my autograph,” Marvin said. “He had people working on his Mustang, but none were licensed mechanics, and he needed someone to sign off on the work. I told him the only way I’d consider it if I was there while the work was being done, and he said that was even better.”
For many years, the Hoppenworths camped with eight couples and their families. “We’d always have cocktail hour together before we’d eat,” Cathy said. “But we have outlived most members of our group.”
Marvin is also known as Pedal Plane Papa for building 45 pedal planes, many donated and used at AirVenture. He got the ideas for the pedal planes from his own grandchildren and seeing Paul Poberezny go through the campsite with a granddaughter in tow.
The first year he designed and built three red Pitts, which he named the Red Rascals. “People went bananas,” he recalled. So the next year, he built Christen Eagle pedal planes. From there, his designs continued to grow.
For 10 years beginning in 1985, he had a booth at the convention, selling plans to make the pedal planes and later selling kits. “I told Cathy, ‘I think we will be a success with this. If I can sell 400 sets of planes, we’ll break even.’”
They ended up selling 22,000 plans before selling the company.
Throughout the years, Marvin has served EAA in various ways. He’s been a judge of antiques/classics, and he even built a J-3 Cub from original parts that he collected and then donated the plane to the EAA AirVenture Museum. Both he and Cathy also volunteered at KidVenture for many years, working the pedal plane area.
“I’ve always said that the greatest feeling you can have leaving Oshkosh is knowing that you have been part of the greatest air show in the world,” Marvin said.
EAA and other groups have noted Marvin’s accomplishments in the past, and he received the FAA Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award, and EAA Major Achievement Award for outstanding service to EAA and recreational aircraft, among others. The Hoppenworths said it’s the people who have kept them coming back to AirVenture year after year. “Planes are just our common denominator.”
That fascination with aviation was passed down to their son, Bill, who is also an A&P mechanic. Bill recalled being a teen and disappearing for the day to volunteer in the Warbirds area, in hopes of hitching a free ride. He and his wife, Bev, now of Maryville, Tennessee, were married in EAA’s Fergus Chapel two decades ago, and are camping with the elder Hoppenworths this week in Camp Scholler.
Marvin said he thinks this year may be the last AirVenture he will make as it is becoming increasingly difficult for him to get around. What will he do instead?
“Suffer,” he replied.
But the rest of the family isn’t so sure it will be his last visit. “He said it would be his last convention two years ago, and he’s still back,” Bev said. “We’ll just see what happens.”