Eldridge "Tinker" Schopper, a big-band musician, died Monday in his home in Wales Center. He was 78.
Born in East Aurora, he was a graduate of East Aurora High School, where he set many records as a basketball player. He joined the Navy in 1952, attended the Navy music school and played with the Navy Band in the White House and at other important functions.
After his discharge in 1956, he worked for a while as a repairman for automatic pin-setting machines in bowling centers, then played trombone with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and other touring big bands.
When he stopped touring after he married and started a family, he took up photography and operated a studio in Orchard Park for a few years. He returned to touring after the studio closed, playing with the band that accompanied the Toby Tyler Circus.
Mr. Schopper also played in many local bands and at the Colored Musicians Club. An expert on jazz, he regularly fielded phone inquiries from disc jockeys around the country. Although he lost his sight in recent years, he continued playing trombone until a few weeks ago.
Surviving are two sons, Louis A. and Joseph J. Reese, and two daughters, Gretchen Schopper Smith and Deborah Reese Thompson.
Services will be arranged.