2017-11-16 / Front Page

School closed for devoted mother

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


KRIS POPP fought through cancer to watch her son graduate and keep the scorebooks for her childrens’ sports teams. – Enterprise file photo KRIS POPP fought through cancer to watch her son graduate and keep the scorebooks for her childrens’ sports teams. – Enterprise file photo Kris Popp touched the lives of families across the Leelanau Peninsula.

The St. Mary School community and the county community at large will come together Friday to celebrate her life.

Classes were canceled Friday. Popp died Monday at Munson Hospice House in Traverse City after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 52.

“What an inspirational woman she was,” said Jean LaCross, former St. Mary development director who first met Popp 15 years ago. At the time, Popp was working as public relations coordinator and webmaster for the school. “So loving. So giving. So inclusive.

“She took in everyone and was every kid’s mom.”

Popp lived in Lake Leelanau but her influence spread well beyond. She was the volunteer Leelanau Summer Youth League coordinator for Lake Leelanau and worked with others to make sure the tradition continued.

“Kris was interested in making the league the best around,” said Jennifer Zywicki, who with her mother Jackie Budd serves as the league coordinator for Cedar. “At a time when volunteers are hard to find, she worked hard to keep it going. She didn’t want to see it go to the wayside.”

Popp was a fixture in the Lake Leelanau St. Mary gymnasium attending athletic events involving her children, Megan, Ryan and Shannon. Their sports included baseball, softball, basketball and volleyball.

Popp, her childrens’ biggest fan, wasn’t in the stands. Instead she could be found at the scorer’s table working as bookkeeper and statistician.

Her interests weren’t limited to athletics alone. Popp held important roles with the Leelanau Children’s Choir and Leelanau Youth Ensemble. That’s when she met and became friends with director Margaret Bell.

“Kris’ kids were the most important thing in her life,” said Bell, who also gave the Popp children private voice lessons. “She was sick but wanted them to have as normal lives as possible.”

A consummate volunteer, Popp’s involvement went well beyond the board level as she served assisted Bell in coordinating LCC/LYE performances.

She also served as the board’s parent liaison.

“There wasn’t a kid she didn’t know,” Bell said.

As recently as Nov. 6, Popp was at rehearsal talking with kids about tickets for their upcoming holiday concert.

“I would start a sentence and she would finish it,” Bell said. “Whatever Kris was involved in, she made it better.

“How do you replace someone like that?”

Popp’s death is being felt at the school where her family has been deeply involved. Her husband, Dale, is a bus driver at St. Mary. Her youngest daughter, Shannon, is a junior at the school. Ryan graduated from St. Mary in June. And daughter Megan is now a senior at Hope College.

Students gathered at the church Tuesday to pray the rosary for Popp and her entire family. The school’s south bus route in the morning has been canceled until Dale Popp returns to work.

A substitute driver has been found to take the afternoon shift.

Due to the number of faculty, staff and students attending the funeral Mass, St. Mary School and preschool will be closed Friday.

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