Frank Hoppe didn’t set out to be the legend among Nebraska trapshooters.
But in winning one event at a time over five decades, Hoppe became the most decorated Nebraska trapshooter of his era. He was a member of 28 All-America teams since 1976, winning 45 Grand American titles. He won more than 50 Nebraska state championship trophies since 1973, plus 264 championships in other states. He was captain of the All-America team in 1999. He was inducted into the national Trapshooting Hall of Fame in 2005.
Hoppe, 70, of Columbus, Neb., died Sunday at Bryan LGH East Medical Center in Lincoln after a three-month fight with cancer.
“He was my shooting hero,” professional trapshooter Richard Marshall Jr. of Lincoln said. “He was my coach, my mentor and like a second dad. He was a legend in trapshooting history anywhere.”
Trapshooting is a shooting sport with a shotgun. Shooters stand 16 to 27 yards behind a device that throws clay targets and fire at the discs flying away from them.
Few shooters powdered as many consecutive targets in competition as Hoppe did during a career that started in 1966 when his father-in-law introduced him to the game. Hoppe broke his first 25 straight that day. He once broke 1,000 targets without a miss. He shot more than 650,000 targets during his career.
Hoppe was disciplined, deliberate and dependable on the firing line. During the Grand American World Trapshooting Tournament in 2002 he hit 200 consecutive targets to reach the finals and then broke 275 more in a row to outlast the remainder of the field.
At age 60, Hoppe came off the world singles championship to recapture the Nebraska State Trapshoot after a four-year drought. Hoppe attributed his success to natural talent and a love of competition.
“What I do is make sure my mind is out there with my eye,” he told The World-Herald. “Everything else is second nature.”
Hoppe was born in Columbus and graduated from Schuyler (Neb.) High School in 1961, where he was a three-sport letterman. He held school records in track and was the leading scorer on the state championship football team. As a freshman, he started at quarterback at Colorado State College, now the University of Northern Colorado.
He married Carolyn Ross in Columbus in 1964. After serving four years in the Navy during the Vietnam War, he received degrees in education and journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and graduated from the NU law school.
He made his living carving decorative waterfowl decoys and other birds, guiding Platte River duck hunters and teaching shooting clinics. He wrote a column for Trap and Field magazine and traveled internationally for trapshooting.
Hoppe took pride in the success of shooters he mentored and coached, said Jim Bradford of Norfolk, Neb., president of the Nebraska Trapshooting Association.
“It was the quiet pride of a dad watching his kid develop,” Bradford said.
In addition to Hoppe’s wife, survivors include daughters Jessica Foster of Manhattan, Kan., Traci Hoppe of Columbus; sons Scott Hoppe of Columbus and Steven Taylor of Live Oak, Fla., three sisters, one brother and three grandchildren.
A funeral Mass is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Columbus. Visitation will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Gass Haney Funeral Home in Columbus.
“My goal has always been to take each event one at a time,” Hoppe said in 1997. “If it works, fine. But to set a goal to win more state championships than anyone else never entered my mind. I’ve just happened to win more. I’ve had good health and the opportunity. I’m just happy to be there.”
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