On Christmas Day 1975, Senior News Editor Don Shoopman watched from his rearview mirror as his mother wept and waved goodbye to her eldest son as he left the Shoopman holiday gathering in Joplin, Missouri, for an adventure in newspaper in Louisiana.
The day after New Year’s 1976, Shoopman was to begin his new job in the sports department of The Daily Iberian. Millions of words put to paper later, Shoopman is celebrating his 40th year at the newspaper, still banging away at a keyboard, championing local conservation and sharing stories of generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters enjoying hunting and fishing in a Sportsman’s Paradise.
“One of my first interviews in 1976 was with Brig. Gen. Walter S. McIlhenny, about his national champion bird dog, Miller’s White Cloud. Yes, I still remember the name,” Shoopman said. “I’ve never been more nervous and awestruck as that interview in person in Mr. McIlhenny’s spacious office at the McIlhenny Co., home of Tabasco products on Avery Island. That story (I spelled Tabasco wrong, unfortunately) probably fueled the fire more than anything else to write more and more outdoors stories about the amazing outdoorsmen in and around the Teche Area.”
Shoopman, 63, started out as a copyboy for his hometown newspaper, The Kansas City Star, in 1971 and worked his way to general assignment reporter before leaving at the end of 1975 to write sports for The Daily Iberian.
At the suggestion of a respected editor, he decided to check out South Louisiana around Thanksgiving and immediately fell in love with the area.
“Don has been a great part of the newspaper and community,” Daily Iberian Publisher Will Chapman said. “He has covered generations of student athletes, as well as coached boys and girls in soccer for a long time, and is very dedicated to New Iberia. It has been great to have him here for so many years.”
Beginning as a sports writer, he added regular outdoors coverage in 1978 and has been a freelance writer for the Louisiana Sportsman since 1984. In 1994, he moved to the news copy desk as senior news editor, but still dabbles in his love of sports writing by covering football games in the fall.
Shoopman has served on many boards and commissions in New Iberia, the Iberia Soccer Association, Iberia Sports Complex Commission (which built the Louisiana PepperPlex), New Iberia Recreation Board and Boys & Girls Club. He has a passion for soccer and has coached ISA girls and boys teams since 2000. He also is an assistant soccer coach for the New Iberia Senior High School boys’ team since 2013. Before that he was assistant coach for the NISH girls’ team from 2000 to 2013.
“How he does all of that year after year is amazing,” said Daily Iberian Managing Editor Jeff Zeringue. “His dedication to the Iberian is solid, but his heart is even more devoted to his family, which is extended every year by the young athletes he cares deeply about on and off the field.”
After a short visit, there is always a story about how that person grew as a student and athlete. Telling the story, something at which Shoopman excels, is why he has been such an impact on the Teche Area.
“As I’ve told several people lately, on my 40th anniversary here, I’m proud of The Daily Iberian, where it’s been and where it’s going,” Shoopman said. “I’ve seen this building grow from an old car dealership to a modern plant. And I’ve met great co-workers throughout the building over the years.
“Daily newspapers have a place in my heart and I know there are many, many people who feel the same way. Of course, for an old hoss, keeping up with technological changes in the business have been a challenge, met so far, knock on wood.”
Shoopman married the former June Boutte in 1983. They have two sons, Joshua, 31, of New York City, and Jacob, 27, of New Iberia.