Sarnia Collegiate has produced many notable citizens over the years, from author Marian Engel and actor James “Scotty” Doohan, to Chief Justice Patrick Kerwin and Roberta MacAdams, Canada’s first female MPP.
Another interesting SCITS alumnus who died recently in the U.S. was Lois A. Soper Heden.
Lois Soper was the student editor of the yearbook in 1948 when she changed its name from “The Collegiate” to “Ad Astra,” which means “to the stars.”
It was a telling choice.
Lois Soper, or “Sopie” as friends knew her, was born in Sarnia on June 1, 1929. She was one of three children of Rene (Jardin) Soper and James Soper, a farmboy turned Imperial Oil exec who raised trotters and pacers as a hobby. In fact, people would bring their horses from as far as California to Jim Soper for his equine insight.
After graduating from SCITS, Lois worked for a time at an advertising job in Sarnia. One day a friend who had moved to Los Angeles invited her to visit, and when the friend went for a job interview at United Airlines, Lois tagged along.
Handed an application form, she filled it out and, at the age of 21, became an airline stewardess. In 1950 it was highly coveted job and a glamourous as becoming a model or pageant winner.
Lois flew the main east-west route round-trip from Los Angeles to Washington. She lived in a D.C. apartment with four other stewardesses, would use the stopover in Denver to have her hair coiffed, and after disembarking in L.A. would work on her suntan.
Living across the street from the Washington apartment was a young U.S. Air Force member named Karl Heden, recently back from Korea.
Heden told The Journal he dated all four roommates before finally asking out ‘Sopie.’
“She was a very sweet person,” he said. “She was an attractive women with a commanding appearance. Women loved her, and men loved her.”
Married in 1955, they were together 20 years and raised two daughters, Erika and Cairn.
“We used to go back to Sarnia for vacations and Christmas. It was her hometown and she loved it. I enjoyed it too,” said Heden, now 87, and living in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Lois Soper Heden was a member of the Georgetown Presbyterian Church in Washington and president of the Washington Chapter of Clipped Wings, an organization of former UAL stewardesses.
She was also a member of the Ladies Board of Georgetown University Hospital.
Her older daughter, Erika, became a director and producer at WJLA in Washington and won a TV Emmy in 1984 before dying of cancer at the age of 28.
‘Sopie’ herself passed on May 24 in Broadway, Virginia at the age of 87.
Said Heden: “She will be missed by all who knew her.”