Obituary: Raymond Dixon Copeland Jr. / Funeral homes owner dedicated to 'closure'
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At age 92, Raymond Dixon Copeland Jr., known as "Dick" to his friends and family, was no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the funeral home that he founded nearly six decades ago. But that didn't stop him from inspecting his property regularly, with his pet black pug, Mai Ling, pointing out maintenance issues such as light bulbs that needed to be changed.
"He hadn't been active as far as selling funerals or working with families, but he was still the consummate businessman," said his daughter Carin Copeland of San Diego.
Mr. Copeland -- owner of funeral homes in Coraopolis, Moon and Sewickley -- died Friday at Heritage Valley Sewickley of complications from the flu.
Mr. Copeland, a native of Sewickley, spent 67 years in the funeral planning business after graduating from the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science in 1940. He worked first as an apprentice and then a licensed embalmer at various funeral homes including the former Troxell Funeral Home, which he purchased in 1954 and converted to what is now Copeland's Coraopolis, the flagship of his chain of three funeral homes.
In the early years of the business, Mr. Copeland and his late wife, Geraldine, also operated an ambulance service and were later instrumental in the formation of the Valley Ambulance Authority in 1972.
During World War II, Mr. Copeland, spurred by the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, volunteered to join the Navy, where he served as a corpsman and assistant chaplain on the attack transport ship USS Colusa in the South Pacific theater.
It was when he returned from the war that he went to work at Troxell, where he and his wife made their home on the upstairs floor. The couple retained the location as their home, raising three children there while running their businesses, Carin Copeland said.
Ms. Copeland said her grandmother used to joke that she always knew her son would become a funeral director, because he used to hold burial services for dead animals he found outside when he was a young boy. "He had a little red wagon and if he found a dead bird or cat, he would wrap them in fabric, gather his friends around and go bury the little animals," Ms. Copeland said.
She said her father attended Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia for two years and considered becoming a minister before deciding to attend mortuary school. She said he used many of the skills of a minister in dealing with the families who came to his funeral home. "It was very important for him to help give closure to people who had lost loved ones and to carry them through that difficult time. He was one of the kindest, [most] loving people that you would ever want to meet," Ms. Copeland said.
In addition to operating his funeral homes, Mr. Copeland was active in the community. He served on the Coraopolis school board through the district's merger with Neville Island to form the Cornell School District, and he was a Mason, Shriner and member of the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce and Coraopolis Kiwanis Club.
He was also a member of the Coraopolis United Methodist Church, where Mr. Copeland and his wife created a foundation to help fund the church's charity work and mission work, Ms. Copeland said.
In addition to his daughter Carin, Mr. Copeland is survived by another daughter, Jessica Volante of Moon; a son, Thomas, also of Moon; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Copeland's Coraopolis, 867 Fifth Ave. Burial will be in Sewickley Cemetery.
First Published February 18, 2013 12:00 am