Billie J. Hopper (1944 – 2021):
Volunteer and Co-Executive Director at Ruth Bancroft Garden 2005 – 2019

Billie Hopper, former Executive DirectorTribute to a dear friend, 3/8/2021

March 8th is celebrated as International Women’s Day. I’d like to take this opportunity to remember Billie Hopper, longtime friend and wonderful Co-Executive Director with me at the Garden.

I was so lucky to work with Billie on behalf of Ruth’s Garden for seven years. In fact, if Billie had turned me down when I asked her to help me co-direct the Garden in 2012, I would not have had the courage to step up to offer my (our!) services to the Board of Directors. Billie passed away this past Valentine’s Day after a two-year illness. It was fitting that she passed away on the day that celebrates love.

Billie was a strong but soft-spoken, kind, and loving person, who helped inspire me and everyone around her to do their best, to laugh a lot with her warm chuckle and smiling eyes, and to enjoy life and their gardens. And, most importantly, she knew how to get things done. It was Billie’s idea for us to launch a building campaign to create a permanent home for the Garden. She and her husband David Mitchell piloted the Building Project from 2013 through 2019. She helped raise funds and she helped lead the Building and Garden team in the million tasks that go into a $5 million project. She was able to enjoy the opening day of the Coit Family Visitor and Education Center in June 2019, but she was not able to really see the transformation that it sparked at the Garden over the last two years. Everyone who knew Billie misses her, but whether you knew her or not, you should know that she helped preserve and give us the Ruth Bancroft Garden that we know today.

Donations in Billie’s memory can be made to the Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery and The Nature Conservancy. Gifts to the Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery will help us maintain and improve the Garden in many ways in the next year. This includes expanding on our visitor material and educational offerings to be more inclusive to a broader demographic, purchasing supplies to complete our new “Nook” education space in the Garden, being able to continue our free admission and educational offering to children 12 and under and so much more!

Click here to make a donation to the Garden in honor of Billie.

Gretchen Bartzen
Executive Director


To learn more about Billie’s life from her obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle: March 16, 2021 click here.