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City Lights: Five generations in a photo

October 24, 2012|By Michael Miller
  • Connie Schopp poses in front of a quilt she made, similar to one her grandmother Virgina Pearl made for one of Schopp's cousins when they were born. Schopp appeared in the Torrance Herald newspaper in 1957 when she was 2 months old, along with four other generations of her family.
Connie Schopp poses in front of a quilt she made, similar… (KEVIN CHANG, HB…)

I remember my great-grandmother a little. She was nearly 100 when I saw her in the nursing home, and my mind retains a sketchy image of a white-haired woman who remained seated and stared bemused at the G.I. Joe toy that I brought to show her.

I was 7 or 8 then, and I'm sure I had a vague understanding that my great-grandmother had once been as young as me, and that someday, with luck, I would live to be her age. At the time, though, the concept didn't seem quite real. It was only years later, reading about her and seeing her pictures in our family history album, that I filled the spaces in between: her arrival in California as a teenager, the births of her children, her years running a turkey ranch.

In their classic song "Bookends," Simon and Garfunkel muse briefly about the passage of time and then give a quiet urging to the listener: "Long ago it must be / I have a photograph / Preserve your memories / They're all that's left you."

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I am blessed to have the photographs I do. And so is Connie Schopp, a Huntington Beach resident who works as a nurse in Newport Beach and recently posed for a picture that encompasses nearly a century of family history.

A couple of weeks back, Schopp joined her son, twin granddaughters, mother and grandfather for a five-generation family portrait. Twenty-four years ago, she appeared in a similar portrait — this one with her young sons, mother, grandfather and great-grandfather.

And back in 1957, her family did the same thing — this time with Schopp as the newborn, and her mother, grandfather, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother comprising the older four generations.

Schopp isn't sure if her family was simply blessed with resilient genes. But whatever the reason, generation after generation has proven to have a knack for living nearly to 100.

"To me, it just represents that I've had a large amount of love from that family," Schopp told me when I visited her home the other week. "It just gives you a sense of who you are and where you come from."

In her living room, we looked at a photocopy of the old Torrance Herald article where the first group portrait appeared in 1957. Schopp's great-grandmother's sister knew a staff member at the paper, and she arranged to have a photographer stop by. Most vivid in the picture are the infant Schopp and her mother, who wear white and sit slightly right of center; her grandfather, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother occupy the edges in darker colors.

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