MACHIAS – “My name is Gene Hooper, I’ve been here to sing.” Gene M. Hooper, 86, passed away peacefully Aug. 17, 2010, at a Machias nursing home after a long illness. He was born Nov. 22, 1923, in “Kennebec” Machias, son of Merrill and Inez (Morse) Hooper. Inspired by Jimmy Rodgers, Gene began a music career that spanned more than 70 years, beginning at age 6 when he did his first gig on a blueberry box. As a child, along with his sister, Emma, he sold the Grit paper and cloverine salve so he could buy his first guitar. At age 16, he left home to begin his music career in Bangor on WABI radio. Gene was then called upon by his country and served in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Upon returning home he resumed his music career, touring all throughout the states and the Maritimes. In 1948, he married his wife of 61 years, Florence Cote. He performed with WWVA Jamboree, Wheeling, W.Va., until returning back to Maine. In 1966, they moved back to Machias and for more than 20 years Gene was on WALZ Machias radio, he toured Maine performing at many events including the Pioneer Show, and later with Allan “Mac” McHale and the Old Time Radio Gang along with his wife, Flo; and daughter, Sharlene. In 1980, he was inducted into Maine Country Music Hall of Fame. He leaves behind a legacy for his love of traditional country music. Gene was also an avid golfer starting at age 62. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He leaves behind, and will be sadly missed by his beloved wife of 61 years, Flo (Cote) Hooper; four children, Joline and her husband, George Sprague, Sharlene Hooper, Wayne and his wife, Jane, and Zita and her husband, Norman Wood; nine grandchildren, Michelle, Nichole, Tanya, Monique, Kenny, Tina, Troy, Janelle and Shawn; 18 great-grandchildren; two sisters, Emma Cunningham, and Eloise Vetrano and her husband, Richard; a sister-in-law, Virginia Hooper; a special cousin, “Mackie”; several nieces, nephews and cousins, and many friends and fans. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by a brother, Roland. Friends are invited to visit with the family 10-11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 23, at Holy Name Catholic Church, Machias, where a Mass of Christian burial will begin 11 a.m. with the Very Rev. Eugene Gaffey, celebrant. A service of remembrance and reception will be immediately after at Parish Hall. Burial at Kennebec Cemetery will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, those wishing to make donations in Gene’s memory may do so to Gene Hooper Memorial U.M.M. Music Scholarship, care of Savings Bank of Maine, Machias, ME 04654. Arrangements are in care of McClure Family Funeral Services, Machias and Lubec. When heaven pulls the curtain back and pins it with a star, remember you have a friend no matter where you are and until we meet again………it’s not goodbye, just so long good neighbor.