Agnes Mae was born on September 13, 1928 to parents Melchior Kopp and Margaret Hagel Kopp, whose German families each immigrated from the Ukraine’s Black Sea area.
She was raised in Richardton, North Dakota, the youngest of thirteen children.
Her family were farmers and ranchers during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, and she recalled the early mornings in the kitchen when the first task was to clear a layer of brown dust from the counters and tables.
Her father, Melchior, often traveled by train buying and selling cattle. He was self-taught to play violin and organ. The young Lawrence Welk, as a budding musician, sometimes sought Melchior’s mentoring at the family home, as his folks farmed in the area. Agnes’s folks sometimes attended Lawrence's early barn dances.
Her early favorite memory was…feeling great awe and a little worry as a 6 year old, watching her mother light the real candles on the family Christmas tree and hearing her mom’s soprano voice singing “Silent Night”, (“Stille Nachte”) in German.
When her father died of Tuberculosis, Agnes was just four years old. Her mother remarried a recent widower in the parish, Jacob Lantz, who also had thirteen children—many of the kids were familiar to the Agnes and her siblings as classmates. Dad Lantz was a kind, practical man who provided well to allow the family to keep both the farm and the ranch.
Agnes remembers her older sister, Phyllis, tying her Shirley Temple locks with rags. With seven brothers, Agnes was both able to give and receive teasing, and there was plenty of it.
The Assumption Abbey of Benedictine monks in Richardton served as a formative influence on the family, and was their parish home.
Agnes Mae loved singing in the all-girl’s school choir and recalled playing the role of Jo, the oldest daughter in her senior play “Little Women”—a joyous and welcome contrast to her real-life position as youngest child.
On her birthdays, Agnes remembers receiving a hand-me-down dress, though grandma made sure it had a fresh new collar, sleeve cuffs and new ribbon.
Agnes Mae graduated from St Mary’s High School, and soon was allowed to join her sisters Phyllis and Alma, who were both pursuing their careers in nursing in Denver, Colorado.
She recalled her first real job at St Anthony’s Hospital in Denver, where she was responsible to collect payment from the patient/family before their discharge—a daunting task for a young farm girl in the big city—and one that she did not shy away from!
In Denver, she met Leo “Lee” Hill, while working in accounting at a uniform-making business. They fell in love and were married, eventually opening a successful used-furniture resale store on 6th Avenue in Capital Hill.
After some years residing near her sisters and their families, Agnes and Lee moved to Redding CA. She worked for the U.S. Dept. of Forestry Service at Mt Shasta and was highly responsible for the purchase and selling of large acres of trees. Her strong and capable work ethic, natural intelligence, and dedication was honored many times by her Department. She retired after 25 years with the Forestry Service. During their time together in Redding, Agnes and Lee enjoyed golfing, neighbor card games, and lots of time on their motor boat.
Some years after Lee passed away, Agnes returned to Denver and lived at Windsor Gardens next to her sister Phyllis, and in close proximity to Alma and their families, as well as other family in the greater area. Her love of traveling took her to numerous places around the world, on boats, planes and trains…and she often traveled with her sisters, a close friend Joan, and church parish-organized groups.
She happily celebrated holidays, birthdays…often at her niece Diane and her husband Bruce’s home, and more recently at her great-nieces Christie and Gina’s homes. This Christmas, she shared stories of her life with six of her great-great-nieces and nephews, as they watched in rapt attention.
In 2018 she moved to Independent Living at Gardens of St. Elizabeth and in mid-2023, happily transferred to the newly built assisted living wing. She loved her community of friends and staff there, and enjoying many activities over the years, and especially the Blackjack and Poker nights until her passing. She was visited regularly by Deacon Kevin and later, by the hospice team that supported her in her last months.
On February 11, 2024, Agnes Mae passed peacefully away in the presence of her niece Gloria, and in the care of Brighton Hospice and the Garden’s staff.
As the youngest of thirteen children, Agnes was also the last of her siblings to pass away. In addition to them, she was preceded in death by her husband, Leo Hill and numerous step-siblings.
Agnes is survived by many nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, as well as many descendants of her late husband Lee.
In lieu of flowers donations are requested to St Jude, Boys Town or a favorite charity of your choice in memory of Agnes.