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After 41 years, a carpenter sets down his tools

photo of George RoperIt was April 2, 1961—he supplied the date as easily as you might recall your birthday—when carpenter George Roper arrived at Boston College. He walked into what is now called the old service building (back then it was new), where he met "Arthur Melville, Father Johnny Murphy, and a secretary named"—and here, after four decades, a moment's pause—"Theresa McCarthy," who took down his information.

When Roper retired on April 26, he left with the memories of 41 years on Chestnut Hill. Despite all he helped build in that time—and that includes most of the modern structures on the campus—on his final day of work he seemed happiest recalling the people he had spent the time with.

There was Fr. Carl Thayer, the former Classics professor, for whom Roper once built an outdoor stage; Leo Sullivan, vice president of human services, his boss and friend of more than 30 years; "the boys" he represented for three decades as head of BC's trades union; and his college-educated children, George '87, Sean '89, Ann '92, and Michael '94.

Of his own graduation, Roper was unsentimental. "You ask yourself, How the hell am I going to face this? But reality sets in, you know. I don't think you're fair to yourself to keep going too long." His retirement plans aren't firm, but for now they'll involve a few months of rest, and then maybe a trip to the Smithsonian museums, particularly the National Museum of American History.

Roper wasn't around for this year's Commencement—if you've seen 41, you've seen them all—but he had a stand-in. When the day's honored guests delivered their valedictions, they leaned for support on an oak lectern that George Roper built.

Tim Heffernan

Photo: George Roper in the BC carpentry shop

Photo by Lee Pellegrini

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