Ropey was born in what was "Frobisher Bay", now
called Iqaluit, in the North West Territories. At the age of
six he contracted tuberculosis and spent the next six years in
various hospitals. For a while he was in Hamilton and then Brampton,
Ontario. While away, his mother and father died. His mother died
with tuberculosis and his father died in a blizzard. He was going
to visit Ropey's eldest sister, also ill with tuberculosis. The
sister died later.
At 19, Ropey was blinded in an accident.Unable to contend
with the elements of his blindness in the artic, he was moved
to the CNIB Centre in Toronto to learn to live with his disability.
Unable to return to the arctic, Ropey settled in London, Ontario.
He brought with him his best friend, his seeing eye dog, "Orin".
In 1975, he began carving soapstone after
coming to a workshop put on by the London Rock and mineral Club
at Fanshawe College. Sandy Cline was the instructor. Sandy believes
that sculpture is a touch media. "One can feel as many faults
in a piece with the hands as can be seen with the eyes,"
as he often quoted to his students.
Ropey was willing to come to the challenge. He began carving
at the workshop but later would travel by bus to the studio of
Sandy Cline to continue his studies. He would board the bus in
London and travel the hundred miles to Sandy's studio. He was
very dedicated to learning this craft.One evening, Sandy walked
out to the studio to get a tool and found Ropey working in the
dark. "Do You want me to turn the lights on" Sandy
foolishly asked. Then he remembered that it didn't matter to
Ropey if there were lights or no, he was always in the dark.
He found that there was a market for his work through art
shows and galleries. The London Civic Centre offered him an area
in their facility to demonstrate and sell his work.
His ability to carve gave him notoriety within the London
community and the Native community in the arctic. He was able
to participate in radio programs and films promoting the abilities
of the blind. As he said, " It shows that the blind aren't
On April 8, 1980, he was struck by a car and killed.