Gwendolyn Hope Douty Hepp died Aug. 16


Hope, as she has always been known to her family, was born only a few minutes after her twin brother Horace was delivered on June 18, 1932, in Rockbridge County to parents Reuben Franklin Douty and Mary Flotelle Coffey Douty.

She grew up on a farm just outside Lexington and attended Mountain View Elementary School and Fairfield High School. The summer she was 14, Hope determined that she would hike alone from the home farm to Cornwall, cross country, and then to White’s Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It took all day, but she accomplished her goal, in typical Hope style.

She worked her way through college at Radford University in Virginia and then at Berea College in Kentucky, earning herself a bachelor's degree in sociology. Afterward, while working as a psychiatric aide at The Institute for Living in Hartford, Conn., she met her future husband, Robert Francis Hepp, himself a psychiatric aide.

The pair soon married, and in 1959 moved back to Hope’s hometown of Lexington,  where Bob attended Washington and Lee University and Hope was a caseworker for the Department of Social Services. It was during this time that Hope became known to friends and colleagues as Gwen, a name she used throughout her adult life, though to her family she remained Hope.

While living in Lexington, Hope entered the teaching profession on the staff of Mountain View School in Rockbridge. In 1959, she and Bob moved to Alexandria, where they raised two sons. Hope taught part-time as a substitute and homebound teacher for Fairfax County Schools for 10 years, and then became a teacher full-time for Browne Academy. She was an avid gardener and loved watching the birds that visited her yard.

In 1981, at age 49, Hope went back to school, studying computer programming at Computer Learning Center and graduating with honors. In 1982, she joined Trident Data Systems as a programmer, beginning a software engineering career that would last over two decades. As the companies employing her were acquired by other companies, she and her talents went with them, and she eventually retired in her 70s from General Dynamics.

After Bob's death in 1996, Hope continued to live at her Alexandria home. In 2013, she moved to the Greenspring Village retirement community in Springfield, Va. Always a voracious reader, she continued to consume a book or more per day. She also enjoyed taking walks and singing in the Greenspring Village choir.

Gwendolyn Hope died of health complications on Aug. 16, 2019, at Fairfax Hospital in Northern Virginia, at age 87.

She is survived by two sons, Robert Franklin Hepp of Buena Vista and John Michael Hepp of Alexandria; by brother Horace Dale Douty and his wife Ellen of Lexington; by sister Shirley Douty Carpenter Rion of Augusta, Ga.; and by numerous nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by two older brothers, Max Weldon Douty and Stafford Winlack Douty, and by her parents. 

A memorial service will be held on Sept. 17 at 11 a.m. at the National Cemetery in Culpeper, where Hope’s husband Bob is interred. All are welcome.


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