John Bryan Dawson Hopcraft
May 6, 1931 ~ October 1, 2016
An Open Letter
We trace your life, rich in experience and outreach, touching folk from all over the world.
You were the first child of Jack and Esther Hopcraft, born in their home (later our home) on Baharini Farm, Nakuru, Kenya on the north shore of that most beautiful soda lake – “the lake of a million flamingos”, and teeming with animals. As a child, you could not sleep until you heard the flamingos taking off on their nightly flights to other lakes in Kenya’s Rift Valley; and so your deep abiding love for the natural world was born.
The 1930s were tough years; you remembered them well – the sharing of food and clothing with others, the deprivation, the locust invasions consuming the farms, the droughts and fires… Then the years of boarding school, away from your home and family, firstly in Kenya, and then in December 1944 you boarded a troop ship to England to complete secondary schooling as the world struggled through the hardships of World War II, you yearned for Africa.
After the war, from 1948 to 1960, you voluntarily devoted all of your time with a team of visionaries from around the world to work with the Moral Re-Armament movement – challenging each person and every nation to move away from the armaments of destruction, hate, and war towards forgiveness. You were passionate about building and affirming the deepest beliefs and longings for a new world at peace with itself. You travelled and worked in 37 countries during those years. You lived to help people from anywhere, of any colour, and any faith to rebuild their lives and remake the world. Through the medium of music, song, and theatre, that passion in your heart never died.
1960 brought you home to Kenya to help your farming parents. That was when you single-mindedly determined that Lake Nakuru must become a National Park, and through the next 17 years, with a strong team, the Nakuru Wildlife Trust was born, as a project of The World Wildlife Fund. You farmed and pursued your conservation vision, with the strong support of your family. You helped introduce wildlife conservation and education projects into the schools. The little wildlife research station on our farm was open to students from Canada, U.S., U.K. and Europe, pursuing their studies together with Kenyan students from the University of Nairobi.
In 1964, you married Sandra Groves; Lynne and Grant were born in 1965 and 1971. Your family grew, the work continued and finally, at last, in 1976, your conservation vision became a reality. Baharini Farm and all land surrounding the lake became Nakuru National Park. It is now Kenya’s crown jewel and attracts thousands of visitors every year from around the world who come to see the same flamingos you grew up with and loved so much.
In 1977, Canada opened up to us in a totally unforeseen way, so our little family of four stepped off the ship, the Steffan Batorie, as new immigrants, into a new life – to a conservation project west of Brandon, Manitoba. In 1979, we moved to the Kootenays, greatly drawn by the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, and to 10 acres in West Creston.
You, John, were able to do small scale farming, build us a home mostly from re-cycled materials. You passionately pursued your theatrical interests as a playwright, poet, singer and music lover – and so the group Positive Productions was born. With a strong team of friends by your side you wrote and produced: the Easter Passion Play, the Christmas plays (“We Have Seen His Star” and “We Could Go In”), the St Paul play (“This One Thing I Do”), and “Let’s Call it . . . CRESTON!”, to name a few. Throughout life, and above all, you have striven to be obedient to your deep Christian faith and calling to the end.
You have received royal honours in this world from princes and politicians, John; but more important to you were the many friends who constantly surrounded you. You showed love for all and treasured the joy these relationships brought you, regardless of creed and colour. You humbly and unassumingly led by example.
You leave your younger brothers Peter (Linda), David, (Carol) and brother-in-law David Stanley (sister Jane died before you). You were always proud of them. Your extended family in Kenya, South Africa, U.K., New Zealand, and the U.S all join us in the celebration of your life.
John, many thanks for the interesting and unexpected life you so willingly shared with us. God blessed you,
He led you, and He has called you. Deepest love from all of us.
Sandy, Lynne and Ken, Grant and Tiziana.