Ernie was born in Powell on Sept. 8, 1926, the son of Ernest J. Goppert, Sr. and Estelle V. Goppert. He was reared in Cody where he attended school and graduated in 1944 as valedictorian.
He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II until 1946 and then earned a law degree at the University of Wyoming in 1952. He was a member of the Wyoming State Bar, a past president of the Park County Bar and a past commissioner of the Fifth Judicial District Bar. He served on the Wyoming Judicial Nominating Commission for six years and later as a member of the State Board of Law Examiners.
On July 14, 1962, he married Marjorie Angelyn McCracken, daughter of the first director of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (now the Buffalo Bill Center of the West), Dr. Harold McCracken. Together they raised five daughters.
Ernie was always civic-minded, supporting the Cody community in numerous notable ways. He was a member of the Cody Lions Club, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and Cody Methodist Church. Ernie also was an active member of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce and Cody Volunteer Fire Department for 28 years beginning in 1957, including a tenure as fire chief.
He was a lifetime member of the Masons, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and member and past Commander of Fred Coe Post No. 20 of the American Legion. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch.
Ernie also left his mark on Cody in concrete ways. In 1968, he helped establish the First State Bank in Cody (now known as Bank of the West), continuing as a director of that bank, eventually becoming chairman of its board of directors. He formed an investment group that built the KOA campground east of Cody and later a housing development on the South Fork side of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir.
Ernie’s hobbies were dogs, guns and cards, which he pursued with the same drive to excel as his civic and business interests. With his black labrador as the first field trial champion in Wyoming, Ernie held numerous leadership positions with retriever field trials locally and across the U.S. He loved to hunt ducks and built a trap shoot on his property, which he shared with Cody trap-shooting enthusiasts.
The Goppert family has had a long connection with the Buffalo Bill Memorial Association (BBMA), the governing body of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. After William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s death in 1917, his niece Mary Jester Allen recruited Ernie’s father, “Gop,” to do pro bono legal work in order to help her create the BBMA, dedicated to “preserving and perpetuating the memory of William F. Cody.” Ernie carried on the family tradition, serving as a BBMA trustee since 1973, including numerous leadership positions.
Ernie is survived by his wife, Marjorie; five daughters, Deborah Lee Hofstedt, Lori Jean O’Connor, Wendy Ann Kuper, Holly Angelyn Niles and Sherie Beth Keele; sister, Marian Cooke of Billings; 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents.
A graveside service at Riverside Cemetery in Cody with military honors and Masonic rites is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, March 29, followed by an 11 a.m. memorial service at the United Methodist Church in Cody.
Memorial donations can be made to The Endowment Fund of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.