Vera Hapoff, 06-06-99

Anchorage Daily News
Wednesday, June 09, 1999
By Larry Campbell, Daily News Reporter
Illustrated By Ron Engstrom

Everyone who knew Vera Hapoff down at Bean's Cafe says she didn't deserve to die like this, not drowned in Ship Creek.

Her body was lodged for who knows how many hours in the fish ladder dam at the overlook bridge. How long she'd been there, no one knows yet. No one even considered her missing when her body was found Sunday afternoon.

Police identified Hapoff on Tuesday and are still investigating her drowning. They don't think foul play occurred. But they still would like to find out how the woman ended up in the creek. So would her friends at Bean's, the downtown soup kitchen where Hapoff visited on and off for at least the past two years, said Bean's staffer Barbara Bennett.

Police said Hapoff was born on St. Paul Island 25 years ago. Her home in Anchorage was listed as the address for the Brother Francis Shelter, the homeless shelter next to Bean's at the lower end of east downtown.

She used to volunteer in the soup kitchen sometimes, said cook Gary Smith.

"She got along with everyone," Smith said. "Nice girl, really. She liked to dance. Down at the Hub, The Avenue, Panhandle. She just liked having a good time."

Hapoff's death was a topic of conversation all day at Bean's. People were trying to remember the last time they saw her, where she was, who she might have been with. A cabbie saw her Friday afternoon down on Fourth Avenue. She seemed fine then, not a care, Smith said.

"Who knows; she might've been down there (at the creek), drinking," Smith said. "She never hung with anyone regular, like a lot of the folks down here do. You know, you always go someplace with someone, or a crowd. You watch out for each other. There's safety in numbers. Everybody needs somebody sometimes.
"But Vera wasn't like that. She was just out there."
Some folks at Bean's thought of Hapoff as a good swimmer, so they think it's unusual that she would die in the creek. But no one can think of anyone who would want to hurt her, either. It's likely she simply stumbled into the creek.
Hapoff will join the list of names that Bean's workers and customers recognize every holiday season; the list of those within the Bean's community who've died.
"She wasn't necessarily a perfect person," Bennett said. "But she was another human being, and she didn't hurt anybody."