CHATHAM – The first time Sean Summers met Tim Roper was after Mr. Roper had zinged him in his satirical Crap Cod Chronicle.
“I told him I thought it was funny, even if he did put me in a Speedo atop someone else's shoulders,” Summers said Monday. “We had a drink and were friends ever since.”
A former selectman, Mr. Roper died at his Old Queen Anne Road home last weekend. He was 65.
Although his wit could be biting, Mr. Roper was charming and engaging in person. A marketing and communications professional, he developed fundraising and marketing campaigns for national corporations and four presidential candidates, and was most recently working for a Canadian political party. Past clients included George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole.
“He was a real player on the national stage,” said Summers.
But Mr. Roper also devoted a lot of attention to his adopted hometown, working to streamline town budgets and get the town's new fire station built.
“He loved this town,” said Chairman of Selectmen Jeffrey Dykens, who served of the board with Mr. Roper for three years. “He'll be missed. He was a very wry satirist, smart, witty, fun.”
Mr. Roper served on the board of selectmen from 2010 to 2016, spending a year as chairman in 2013. He was also active in local civic organizations, and played a key role in the effort to raise money for the Chatham Orpheum Theater. He composed the theaters fundraising mailings and newsletters and was working on another major mailing at the time of his death, said Trustees President John “Kim” Doggett.
“He was a very active adviser and valued member of our team in making the Orpheum a reality,” Doggett said.
While he'd worked on numerous political campaigns, Mr. Roper's 2010 run for selectman was his first shot at public office. He'd been an observer of town politics since first buying a home here in 1989, and in 2003 began composing his satirical “Crap Cod Chronicle,” an electronic newsletter which lampooned the local scene as well as this publication. No one escaped his wit, from local developers to town officials and business owners.
It wasn't his first shot at satire. When working as a political campaign consultant in Washington, D.C., he created a parody of the Washington Post called the Washington Pest as a fax cover sheet so clients wouldn't misplace his faxes, he told The Chronicle in 2003. That turned into the Bethesda Bugle and ended up being circulated by email to friends and clients. His goal, he said, was to “amuse a few friends,” and was surprised at the traction gained by the Crap Cod Chronicle.
“I was quite surprised (and amused) when I was handed a Xeroxed copy of it while having lunch one day at the Squire, with someone saying 'Have you seen this? It's hilarious!'” Mr. Roper said.
“Sometimes I think the harder he lampooned people the better he liked them, in some ways,” recalled Summers. He carried that spirit of playfulness and fun over into his private life, referring to his house overlooking Schoolhouse Pond as the Marco Polo Lounge, Summers said, because of the constant sound of kids yelling “Marco Polo” in the pond below all summer long.
Mr. Roper received the second highest number of votes in that first election, beating an incumbent and another challenger to win one of two seats on the board. Later that same year he courted controversy by siding with the majority of the board in not renewing the contract of then-Town Manager William Hinchey, and was one of three selectmen that were subject to a failed recall effort. He easily won re-election in 2013, but opted not to seek another term last year.
Mr. Roper played a key role in winning approval for construction of a new fire station, and later served on the project's building committee.
“He was very instrumental in moving the project forward,” said Fire Chief Michael Ambriscoe. “He helped sell it to the community, he had that ability.” His presence on the building committee helped streamline the decision-making process as the work moved along. “He wanted to make sure it was done right, that the station suited our needs,” said the chief.
“That wasn't easy,” Dykens said of the effort to convince voters to support a new multi-million dollar station. “He faced all sorts of impediments.”
Former Selectman Florence Seldin, who served with Mr. Roper for three years, said while they did not always agree, “we came to respect each other, learned from each other and we became good friends over the years.” She recalled his gift for the written word as well as the pride he took in the vegetables he grew in his garden, which he often passed on to other board members.
“He was a solid selectman, an engaging personality, and a good friend,” said Selectman Dean Nicastro. “He loved Chatham, and gave much to the community. He will be greatly missed."
Summers said he and Mr. Roper were “kindred spirits of sorts” with much the same conservative approach to government, especially fiscally. Even after he left the board, Mr. Roper spent a lot of time following town affairs.
“You don't get any bigger hearted than he was,” Summers said. “He was very generous and obviously very bright.”
Timothy Lee Roper was born in Mississippi but great up in Tennessee, Connecticut and Michigan. He attended the University of Memphis. He began working in direct marketing in the late 1970s and was president and creative director of his own firm, Tim Roper and Company. He is divorced and the father of two grown children; he has a six-month-old grandchild and his son and daughter-in-law are expecting a second grandchild.
Summers hadn't heard from Mr. Roper for a few days and discovered his body when he went to his home early Sunday afternoon. According to Tara Miltimore of the Barnstable County District Attorney's Office, Mr. Roper's death remains under investigation but is not considered suspicious. The cause and manner of death are pending further investigation and a report by the Chief Medical Examiner, she said in an email Tuesday.
Mr. Roper was a frequent patron at the Chatham Squire, which posted this tribute on its Facebook page Monday: “The Chatham Squire has lost a legend. Your kind words, warm smile, and overwhelming generosity will forever be remembered. Rest In Peace.” The restaurant also posted a photo of a new drink special called “The Roper.”
“It's a loss to the town,” said Dykens. “I feel horrible.”
A celebration of Mr. Roper's life will be held at a later date.