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Robert Holpp



By David Ball

Pleasants County Leader

April 27, 1991

            Cancer patient Robert Holpp helps other victims of the disease in order to help himself. 

            But because of his kindness toward others, the Newport 60-year-old will receive the Ohio Courage Award from the American Cancer Society April 29, in Columbus.  Gov. George Voinovich will give the award to Holpp, who has helped needy people by operating the Newport Food Pantry.

            When they called me up about it, I told them at first, “I don’t think so,” Holpp said of receiving the award.  “The things I do helping cancer patients and everyone is what helps me handle cancer.”

            The award is given to an individual who has shown unusual courage, according to Jan Stine, executive director of the Marietta unit of the American Cancer Society.

            “It gives you a real good feeling,” Holpp said of the award.  “That tells me I’m doing the right thing and (to) keep on doing it.”

            Holpp’s story of courage began when he was diagnosed as having breast cancer in 1981, a rarity in men.  After surgery and chemotherapy, Holpp’s disease went into remission.  But while in the hospital, former cancer patients came and talked to Holpp.

            “He continued to work in the community, even though his life was threatened,” Stine said.

            Holpp again was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1989, this time in his spine and both rib cages.  He can no longer lift objects, so his food pantry work has been curtailed.  He has undergone six months of chemotherapy and now is taking medication.

            After his first bout with cancer, Holpp became a participant in the “I Can Cope” program, which helps cancer patients deal with the disease.  He and his wife, Sue, became weekly volunteers at the American Cancer Society office in Marietta.

            “I’m a giving person, and it makes me feel good about myself if I can help someone else,” Holpp said.

            Stine said Holpp also has been called upon by doctors to talk with other cancer patients.

            “His down-to-earth manner and attitude make it easy for people to talk to him,” she said.  “He has truly been an inspiration to others.  He teaches us all, including the facilitator of our “I Can Cope” and Pioneer Cancer Support groups, that a positive attitude and helping others are important parts of recovery.

            Because he has been unable to return to work now that he is considered disabled, he spends his time in other ways, such as operating the Newport Food Pantry, helping needy people with household goods and food.

            He said he tries to have fun and laugh, regardless of how bad the situation might be.

            “Everyone in Newport knows Bob and how he is fighting cancer personally, and that he is an advocate for them if they need one,” Stine said.  “He is very shy and doesn’t feel that he deserves the awards that he has been given.”

            Those awards have included “Man of the Year” from the local Salvation Army.

            “Bob has been truly an inspiration to everyone who knows him,” Stine said, “and they all have a deep appreciation for his service to others and respect for his willingness to help, even when he is ill himself.”

            The local unit never has nominated anyone for the award before, Stine said.

            “I guess we did this year because he was dealing with a reoccurrence, and he was still interested in serving the community,” she said.

            Now, Holpp looks at his disease optimistically.

            “If I hadn’t been a cancer patient, I wouldn’t have gotten to meet all these people,” he said.  He also wouldn’t have started the food pantry, he said.

            “I feel that God had things for me to do, and this is the only way for me to do it.”

-Extracted from "Footprints"