Thursday Dec 24 2009
Auburn icon never misses a good parade
By: Michael Kirby
If there is such a thing as an Auburn icon, Ralph Roper fits the bill. Husband, father, successful businessman, civic leader, community volunteer, 57-year Auburn resident, and just an all-around good guy, Roper has made a difference in our community. Roper came to Auburn in 1952 after spending 10 years in the Navy serving in World War II and again in Korea. Listening to a friend he served with in the Navy talk about what a great town Auburn was, Roper was encouraged by his friend to visit. He fell in love with Auburn, knowing this would be a great place to raise a family. Roper grew up in Red Wing, Minn. His father was a farmer. “I come from a long line of Ropers that are very mechanically inclined, mostly automotive,” he said. Before he came to Auburn, Roper worked in the local shoe factory for 25 cents an hour, and also worked for a jeweler after hours for free just to gain experience. “I started out stoking the furnace and sweeping the floor, and within a year’s time I was fixing clocks,” he said. Roper was friendly, had a knack for the jewelry business, and was very good at fixing clocks and watches. After settling in Auburn. Roper took a job with Vern Martin at Martin’s Jewelry — a job he held for four years. He then purchased Roy Weller’s jewelry store with his boss’s blessing. In 1956 Roper’s Jewelry was opened and still operates today, a tradition that continues with his son Harvey. “I liked the jewelry business. The store customers are usually happy and I like working with people,” Roper said. Roper has always had a passion for old cars and has quite a collection he restored himself, some dating back to the early 1920s. For years Roper would provide wedding transportation in one of his vintage cars for a bride and groom that purchased rings from his store. Roper’s community involvement runs deep, and he was recognized in 1986 with the McCann award for community service. Though not a member of any service club, Roper has always donated to numerous community projects, and has had some input in almost every project in town. Roper is a member of the Navy League, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Chamber of Commerce. He served as president of the chamber in 1964, the year the Winter Olympics were in Squaw Valley. As a member of the city planning commission for 12 years, beginning in 1957, Roper and fellow commissioners tackled the large task of establishing zoning for the city of Auburn. Roper is still involved in the chamber as an ambassador. He is a member of the local chapters of the Model A, Model T, Chevrolet and Buick clubs. If it’s one thing Roper loves it’s a good parade. He never misses the Veterans Day Parade, and can be seen with the biggest smile on his face driving one of his antique cars or his favorite old tractor, in uniform, of course. In April, Roper lost Helen, his wife, partner, teammate, and best friend of 62 years. “We set a goal and we went for it, and stuck with it,” Roper said. “She was the best. We worked well together, she even went hunting with me, shooting her own deer and elk, and she’d skin them herself.” Roper has done many things for Auburn. From his heart he has given to our town and the truth is Auburn is a better place because he chose to live here.