PORTLAND – Even after he retired from fishing when he turned 62, Joseph Hopkins continued waking up at 4 a.m. each day and going to bed by 7 each night.

“He kept up that fishing lifestyle,” said his son-in-law Mark Monaghan. “He hung out with a lot of fishermen and a lot of other people that live that kind of life.”

While many people take up hobbies when they retire, Mr. Hopkins enjoyed his time socializing instead, said his daughter Valerie Webster Cota.

Before his mobility became limited, he would meet friends at Becky’s Diner, stop at Anania’s Variety for coffee or go to various hot spots around Portland to meet family members and friends.

After going through rehabilitation at the Barron Center, just down the street from his home, Mr. Hopkins returned to visit the friends he had made there, patients and nurses alike.

When his health continued to decline, Mr. Hopkins was hospitalized. He knew he couldn’t return home, but he asked to be at the Barron Center, not at the hospital, said his son-in-law.

Mr. Hopkins died Monday at the Barron Center, in the company of his family and the nurses he had befriended. He was 78.

Known around Portland’s peninsula as “Joe Fish,” Mr. Hopkins spent 45 years working as a commercial fisherman. “He was a fisherman all those years, and I never even knew it was such a dangerous job,” said his daughter Karen Monaghan.

He would board the fishing vessel Sunday and return home Thursday. It was a routine he kept up year-round despite the harsh winter weather off the coast of Maine. “He never complained,” Monaghan remembers.

His health was failing before he retired, but one crew kept him on board as a cook. The day he turned 62, he stepped off that boat and into retirement, his son-in-law said. The crew gave him a framed picture of the boat as a memento.

Just a few years later, the same ship was run down by another vessel and sank, killing the entire crew.

“It was the last boat he’d been on, and they were good people,” his son-in-law said, remembering how sad Mr. Hopkins was after he learned of the tragedy.

Mr. Hopkins had many of his own close calls, his son-in-law said. When the movie “The Perfect Storm” was made, Mr. Hopkins couldn’t sleep for a couple of nights because it brought back bad memories.

“Just a lot of stuff,” his son-in-law said. “It’s a hard life.”

Mr. Hopkins never let those memories weigh him down, though. He was always joking and lighthearted, Cota said.

As much as he enjoyed socializing with friends he had made over the years, he took pleasure in spending time with his five grandchildren.

He loved going to all of their games and keeping up with their activities. It wasn’t unusual for him to drive by their houses early in the morning.

“He’d honk the horn, and the kids would run out,” Cota said.

Waiting for them in his car, he would have a box of Tony’s Donuts for them.

“He was a great guy, very funny and extremely generous,” his son-in-law said.

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]