It was a quiet night but Timothy Ropchock was not at peace.
Anger at his own bad choices drove the then-42-year-old to Wellington’s Red Iron Bar on July 12, 2012. He took solace in a bottle, then got behind the wheel.
At 10:48 p.m., a drunk Ropchock drifted across the center line on Rt. 58 near Webster Road just north of the village limits and killed Glenn Angney, a South Amherst businessman.
Ropchock has spent two years in a cell at the Grafton Correctional Institute after pleading guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated.
“All those years, everything I’d created, was gone that quick,” he told Amherst eighth-graders on Wednesday, a haunted look in his eyes. “But the gentleman whose life I took, he can’t go home… That burns inside me. That will never go away. I’m going to live with that the rest of my life.”
His confessional came Wednesday as part of a program called DOPE is for Dopes. DOPE stands for “Death or Prison Eventually.”
Those are the two inevitable end points Ropchock and several fellow inmates said their previous lifestyles have. There are no happy endings for those who embrace violence and drugs, they said.
The prisoners — some serving 20 and 50 years for drug trafficking and armed robbery — didn’t tell their stories to earn pity or make excuses. Their goal was to show how the wrong choices could so easily skew the lives of young people.
Making bad decisions was a lifelong pattern for Ropchock.
His early years were happy. He remembers his family gathering around the dinner table to share stories over supper.
During middle school, that changed. His parents started to argue. There were money problems. The Ropchocks started moving often and he never felt he fit in.
He started coping by stealing his older sister’s cigarettes. That attracted the attention of a certain crowd and soon Ropchock found he could make “friends” by stealing beer from the refrigerator at home.
“These friends were not really my friends. They just wanted something from me,” he said.
When his sister caught on, Ropchock said she didn’t cut him off. No, she started selling him beer.
Times got worse. The sister moved out, but money was such a problem the Ropchocks ended up moving into her apartment over a bar in downtown Wellington.
“I was hurt. I was upset at my parents,” Ropchock said. “Instead of asking people for help, instead of talking to a teacher or somebody, I started going out and raging more.”
Dreams of earning a degree in drafting went up in smoke. Ropchock said he wasted a year and a half in college smoking weed and drinking. He dropped out.
It was about that time he met a special woman named Beth. He got a job, got married, had three children and started to turn his life around. Beth went back to school and became a nurse; Ropchock went back to college to complete a two-year degree.
Then it happened. Stressed out, Ropchock said he started making bad decisions again and “letting all the bad stuff back into his life.” Beth left him.
“I did what I always did. I ran to the bar. I ran back to those friends I always had, those people who were using me for beer and cigarettes. I ran all the way back to them,” he said.
That led to the bar and the drinking led to a stolen life.
In a couple of months, Ropchock gets a chance to go home and be with his family again “and hopefully fix what I’ve torn apart,” he said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photos by Jason Hawk | Wellington Enterprise Timothy Ropchock said the friends who pushed him to provide beer and cigarettes in high school were not true friends. They fostered destructive habits that ultimately put Ropchock behind bars, where he is serving two years for vehicular homicide.