George M. Soper, Jr. was a familiar and beloved presence in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island, known for his bright smile and engaging personality. He was an outstanding husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend to those of all ages. The huge heart that propelled his love and joy suffered from a sudden aortic tear on Wednesday, triggering a heart attack and stroke from which he would not recover. He died peacefully and painlessly on Friday, October 1, 2021 at the Hilton Head Hospital ICU with his wife, Bess, sons McLeod and Gray, and his two sisters keeping him company through his final journey.
Mike, as he was affectionately known, had lived in the Low Country since 1978. Most recently the Beaufort County representative for the South Carolina Education Lottery, Mike was equally adept at his many jobs, careers, interests and hobbies – from being a most engaging bartender to working for a number of diverse Hilton Head businesses. Before moving here, he had worked as a sales rep for several furniture companies in Charleston, West Virginia and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Once firmly established in the Low Country, Mike and his wife, who owns Bess’ Delicatessen, became devoted parents to McLeod and Gray, and were affectionately admired by their many friends. One said, “He led us to so many beautiful people in our world.” The boys remember their dad for his wise and ready advice – for personal and professional dilemmas – and for his constant reminders as they grew up: particularly “Common sense prevails,” “Carpe Diem,” and “I want to hear from you, not about you.” No meal began without “Bless this food” first.
He never let anything keep him down for long and always looked for a silver lining. “Tomorrow is a new day,” he would say. “Today gets left behind at midnight. Could have, should have and would have are history. Can, will and yes awake at 12:01 a.m. The day is mine.”
George McLeod Soper, Jr. was born in Boston, Massachusetts on June 28, 1951, the youngest child of George McLeod and Suzanne “Hebe” Moeller Soper. The three “Soper kids” grew up in an exceptionally close family in Atlanta. Sadly, Mike was just 17 when his mother died, a year before he graduated from the Darlington School in Rome, Georgia in 1969. He attended Athens College in Athens, Alabama where he was an ATO and first met Bess Gray from Elkmont, Alabama. She became his wife ten years later. After transferring to Florida State University in Tallahassee, he followed his dad into the furniture business.
Mike was known for his beautiful green eyes and open-armed hugs for all. He was sincerely interested in the life stories of friends and strangers of all ages and, while working, was a popular lottery overseer to the convenience stores in Beaufort County. He was dubbed “McGuyver” by appreciative family members for his uncanny creativity and innate resourcefulness which enabled him to build, invent, repair, design and redesign anything from Adirondack chairs, docks, a work desk, a spice cabinet, patio table, to a cabinet bar and fool-proof doggie doors, among so much else. He also lovingly perpetuated the Woffle Noffle, a playful character created by his dad as a child, by having it replicated on cocktail glasses and napkins as well as note paper and boxer shorts.
Mike was a devout member and longtime usher at Church of the Cross where he attended attended many men’s retreats and, years ago, he and the boys often cooked Wednesday night suppers. His ashes will be interred in the church columbarium overlooking the May River which has been a constant source of pleasure for Mike – whether gathering with other boaters on the Bluffton Sand Bar, fishing with the boys, heading for Hudson’s with Bess on weekends – or playing with the dogs in the water. Ashes will also be placed in the Old Saybrook, Connecticut cemetery, overlooking the Long Island Sound, with his parents. Anyone who might enjoy a Dewar’s with him in either spot, would be welcome.
Mike is survived by Bess Gray Soper, his devoted wife of 42 years, and their two sons: George McLeod Soper, III of Greenville, South Carolina and Gray Allensworth Soper of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. McLeod’s two children, George McLeod Soper, IV and Isla Jane Soper will miss “Sopey,” their adoring grandfather. His sisters, Susan Soper Holland (William “Bo”) of Atlanta and Wendy Soper McSweeney (Patrick) of Powhatan, Virginia – who were always in close, constant contact – also survive him. Many loving nieces and nephews will miss him as will his “shadow,” Ginger, a beautiful labradoodle. Previous beloved dogs from Zippo to Sweetie have welcomed him “home.”
A funeral service will be held on Thursday, October 7 at 11 a.m. at Church of the Cross, 110 Calhoun Street, Bluffton, 29910. In lieu of flowers, the family knows Mike would appreciate donations to the Hilton Head Humane Society, 10 Humane Way, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926 or hhhumane.org.