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Published May 27 2010

Memories take root

The lone oak tree next to Hawthorne Elementary School’s playground is Ian’s tree.

Young like the 9-year-old who lost a battle with cancer last year, the tiny tree will also make a lasting mark in the community.

Ian Hopfauf’s classmates planted it Wednesday in memory of the spirited Fargo third-grader who loved life, laughing and telling jokes.

“It’s just so amazing how he had such a short time here, but clearly made an impact,” his mother, DeAnn Hopfauf, said tearfully. “It’s just a beautiful tribute because it’s something that’s going to grow and last and provide some beauty for generations to come.”

When Ian was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma in May 2008, his classmates rallied behind him and his family.

That December, they helped raise money to provide Ian with video games and toys to help pass the time during long hospital visits.

Known for his unfaltering humor, contagious laughter and a “heart of gold,” Ian’s optimism remained even when he started to lose his fight with cancer.

Last November, the 18-month battle ended.

His teacher, Scott Klimek, helped Ian’s third-grade classmates through “heart-to-heart talks” as they decorated Ian’s locker and desk. On Wednesday, they planted letters they wrote to Ian alongside the bur oak tree.

“This is very special for the kids,” Klimek said.

Donations given to Ian’s family during his illness were donated to the school to memorialize Ian.

“This community has been unbelievable,” Hopfauf said. “They’ve just been so supportive through everything.”

Now, as the small tree grows, it will keep the memory of Ian rooted in the community.

And while it won’t mitigate the pain and loss the family has endured, they say it will help them continue to celebrate Ian’s life.

“I think this is absolutely wonderful – a really beautiful, beautiful tribute,” Hopfauf said, wiping away tears. “I think it’s perfect.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515