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Funeral director's compassion eased families' grief

| Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Raymond D. Copeland Jr. of Coraopolis died Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, of complications of influenza at Heritage Valley Sewickley. He was 92.
Raymond D. Copeland Jr. of Coraopolis died Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, of complications of influenza at Heritage Valley Sewickley. He was 92.

The mother of Raymond Copeland knew he was going to be an undertaker when he was just 5 years old.

“He had a little red wagon, and he would find bits of fabric,” recounted daughter Carin Copeland of San Diego. “When he found a dead bird or dead animal, he would wrap it in that fabric, put it in the little red wagon, and then he would have his friends follow the little red wagon (in) a funeral procession. Then he would bury the little animal.”

He went on to devote 67 years to the funeral business and help 20,000 families deal with their grief.

Raymond D. Copeland Jr. of Coraopolis died Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, of complications of influenza at Heritage Valley Sewickley. He was 92.

He was born July 31, 1920, in Sewickley to Goulding and Raymond Dixon Copeland Sr. His father was a buyer for J&L Steel, and his mother ran a boarding house.

He graduated from the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science in 1940 and enlisted in the Navy. He served as a corpsman and assistant chaplain on the attack ship USS Colusa in the South Pacific Theater during World War II.

After the war, he began his mortuary career. He started in Ritchey Funeral Home in Sewickley; worked as an apprentice in Brandt Funeral Home and as an embalmer in Patterson Funeral Home in Atlanta; Scott Funeral Home in Rogersville in Greene County; and Troxell Funeral Home in Coraopolis. He bought Troxell and made it Copeland Coraopolis.

Carin Copeland recalled how her father helped her ex-husband cope with the death of his brother, whose body was cremated and his ashes buried.

“He said you can plant a tree over the top of the ashes. And as the ashes become part of the soil, they become part of the tree, so your brother is still with you,” he said.

His son, Thomas Copeland of Moon, said his father had a gift in easing the grief of families, especially those who had lost a child.

“He just had a way with his words that were calming and soothing to a family,” he said.

Mr. Copeland was married 64 years to the former Geraldine Anna Larabee. She died in October 2012.

“He remembered seeing her at a bowling alley, and he just knew that was one for him,” his daughter said.

The couple bowled, played bridge and golf, and watched the sunrise and sunset at their lake house in Madison, Ohio.

Mr. Copeland served on the Coraopolis and Cornell school boards when the Coraopolis and Neville Island districts merged. He helped found the Heritage Ambulance Authority.

Carin Copeland recalled her father's weekly routine before church. He rubbed Vaseline on her black patent-leather shoes and buffed them with a cloth until they glowed.

“He'd say, ‘There you go, little sister. Are you ready for church?”

In addition to his son and daughter Carin, survivors include another daughter, Jessica Volante of Moon, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Monday in Copeland's Coraopolis, 867 Fifth Ave., with a Veterans of Foreign Wars service at 7:30 p.m. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in the funeral home, with the Revs. Amy Wagner and Richard Jones officiating. Burial will follow in Sewickley Cemetery with full military honors.

The family asks that memorials be in the form of donations to the Coraopolis Volunteer Fire Department, Doric Lodge 630 F&AM, the Raymond D. and Geraldine L. Copeland Charitable Trust or the United Methodist Foundation of Western Pennsylvania.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or

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