Parishioners at St. Croix Reformed Church this Sunday morning will miss the benediction given by the Rev. Rodney J. Koopmans, in which he urged them, as he held his hands high, to go forward into the world in peace. Koopman’s died unexpectedly early Tuesday at the age of 71.
He will also be missed in many other parts of the community. He was the director of My Brother’s Table, a soup kitchen in Frederiksted that serves the homeless a noon meal Monday through Friday. He was also active in the Interfaith Coalition on St. Croix and started Jazz Vespers at the church. He was also on the board of directors at King’s Hill School for about 15 years. The school, run by his wife Janie, was closed after 15 years after the Hovensa Refinery closed.
He had awakened at midnight Monday and told his wife he couldn’t catch his breath. She drove him to the hospital, but by the time they arrived, he was gone. The doctors believe it may have been a blood clot that originated in his lungs and are referring to it as a cardiac incident.
He had been the pastor at the Reformed Church for almost 20 years. Before that he had been a pastor in Fishkill, New York, for 15 years. Before that he was a pastor in the country of Oman.
He told his wife, with whom he had celebrated a 50th anniversary last year, that he never thought about retirement, he said, because. “I love what I do.”
His son Dirk, who flew in from Germany this week, said in an interview about his father, “He firmly believed in a church for everybody.”
He said his father mentored the first female pastor in the Reformed Church because he believed in her ability.
Koopmans was often on the vanguard of those promoting the rights of all people. During his college years, during the civil rights movement, he went into the South to help register blacks to vote. On St. Croix, he was one of the few pastors to officiate at same-sex marriages.
In his sermons he often mentioned how blessed he felt to be living on St. Croix. One of the successful projects he promoted was the installation of a 10-kilowatt wind turbine at the church on top of the hill in La Reine in 2012. His goal in that project was not to “save the church money,” but to redirect the money to charitable efforts more worthy than paying an electric bill. One of those efforts was the donation of a copy machine to Alfredo Andrews Elementary School.
Rose Carty, manager of My Brother’s Table, said they closed in memory of Koopmans on Thursday. She added, “He was a good spirit and was a good hearted person.
For pleasure, Koopman’s liked to play golf, but did not find much time for it in recent years. He was a fan of P.G. Wodehouse, the English humorist, and had read most of his novels.
He was born in Wisconsin and attended Western Theological Seminary in Michigan. He met Janie their first day of college. Besides his son, Dirk, he has a daughter, Lara Koopmans- Hiller.
A memorial service for Koopmans is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Reformed Church. Donations can be made in his memory to My Brother’s Table, RR01, Box 6125, Kingshill, VI 00850
The benediction with which he ended church services was, “May the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”