Monday, September 15, 2008

Celebration of Life for Steve Copan

Celebration of Life for Steve Copan

Held at Creekside Landing Care Facility
Vernon, BC
Saturday, September 13, 2008

(The memory table is set at the front. On the table is a white tablecloth. There is a traditional hand-woven Ukrainian Poyas (men's belt) laid horizontally across the tablecoth. As well, there is a ceramic vase decorated in a traditional white, black and red Ukrainian design. The vase holds several huge green hydrangeas, complemented with multiple wheat stocks. There is also a large framed photo of Steve as a young soldier taken circa 1942-1943.)

Opening Remarks

We gather today to remember Steve Copan. We will each remember personal little things about him which gave him a special place in our hearts.
We will remember happy times when we laughed together.
And as we gather here it is important to also share the gift of grief. While it is important to remember Steve with laughter, it is equally, if not more important to be comfortable with our tears.
There is an understanding that tears and grief are nature's way of healing a broken heart. One of our important functions today is to help Ella's heart heal just a little bit -- by letting her know that we understand that she is now walking a long journey of grief. We need to let her know that we love her and we need to let her know that Steve was a significant person to each of us. He touched our lives. And that's why we gathered here today.
My name is Teresa Andrews. I am a Celebrant. I am honoured to be here with you today to help celebrate Steve's life -- a life well lived.
Let me express my gratitude and gratitude on Ella's behalf for your presence here today. In the journey of grief there is nothing that takes the place of family and close friends.
After the time together here, we will say our final goodbyes to Steve at Kin Beach on Okanagan Lake. For those who are able to stay, there will be a time together at the Pantry restaurant -- close by the Vernon Lodge on Hyw. 97.

Precious Stones Ceremony

The Oklahoma City Bombing memorial has two symbolic wall-gates. They are made of special metal which absorbs touch. Each visitor is encouraged to touch the walls to leave a part of themselves to be remembered and to be reminded.
You will be given a crystal heart to hold -- some are rose quarts, some are amethyst and in the mix there are other stones also said to absorb energy. As Willow Burton, Steve's cousin, passes around the basket, please lovingly hold the stone you have chosen. By the close of the ceremony, you will have made each stone precious by your presence here today. At the close of this brief memorial ceremony, we will each place our stone back into the basket, which Willow will give to Ella, for her to remember and be reminded.
William Brookfield plays instrumental, keyboard music.
Willow Burton passes around the basket.

We now have a video tribute we wish to present to you. Please sit back, relax and spend a few moments remembering Steve's life. William will play and sing for us a song that speaks of the world in which Steve lived.
William Brookfield: "What a Wonderful World" plus instrumental music.
(Video time approximately 12 minutes).

Steve Copan's Story

As the story goes, the first Ukrainian immigrant came to Canada in 1842. That immigrant was a Ukrainian spring wheat strain. A Scottish farmer named David Fife, who farmed near Peterborough, Ontario, obtained a sample from a ship that was unloading wheat from the Ukraine at Port Glasgow, Scotland. Farmer Fife found that the Ukrainian wheat matured a full ten days earlier than other types of wheat -- that made it ideal wheat for our short Canadian growing season. That wheat from the Ukraine changed the economy of Canada. By 1928 about eighty-five percent of all spirng wheat was hardy Ukrainian wheat.(Which incidentally, was called Red Fife because of its colour).
Steve Copan was much like that first Ukrainian wheat -- he was one of the best!
The third of John and Roszina Copan's five children, Steve was born at Insinger, Saskatchewan. Like a dear little wheat sprout, he burst into the world on January 9th 1917 into what was likely a very Canadian winter.
Predeceasing Steve were his parents, John and Roszina, plus three of his siblings, Bill, Elsie and Gordon.
He is sadly missed and lovingly remembered by his wife, Ella, his sister, Marian, his sisters-in-law Mary, Cecilia, Kate and Sophie. There are many nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews who will always remember their Uncle Steve's easy-going nature, his sense of humor and his kindness.
Like prairie wheat, Steve found the necessary light and warmth he needed for life wherever he was planted, because his warmth and light came from within his powerful sense of family -- a unity created by the hardships the Ukrainian settlers faced in Canada. They understood the need to settle next to one another for all practical survival reasons. The togetherness and warmth of family made it possible to survive hardships. Steve's sense of rootedness to people and place ensured that Steve and Ella made many trips back to the prairies, especially trips back to Saskatchewan for family get-togethers, for holidays and when needed for special projects. Steve remained very close to his family all his life -- taking care of his mother-in-law. his parents, helping out his sister, Marian, in Vernon, and taking care of his sister-in-law Elsie. Steve took care of family by staying in touch by phone, most especially he regularly phoned his two sisters, until he was physically no longer able to do so. Steve's smiling easy-going voice on the phone carried his warmth and light to another generation -- he always remembered nieces and nephews birthdays and kept phoning until he connected.
Like a hearty Ukrainian-Canadian wheat, Steve Copan grew upward, knowing instinctively that he needed to be useful and functional.
Steve's early life was Saskatchewan farm life. He worked hard on his parents' farm. Then, during the Depression years he 'worked out" for others, (predominately in the Tisdale area) in order to make things a little easier for the family. The hard work continued as Steve and his older brother took over the family farm at Parkerview, Saskatchewan. Steve knew about stressful, dangerous long hours of harvesting, and he knew all about unco-operative Canadian weather. Nevertheless, what every kind of work was needed, wherever it was needed, Steve was there.
For example, when he returned to civilian life in 1946, he initially helped his sister, Elsie, and brother-in-law Matt Pawchuk in their business at Canora, Saskatchewan. Then again, in 1948, after Steve made the wise decision to follow his parents to the sunny Okanagan, he was soon, once again, working with family. Steve, with his parents and his brother, Bill, and his sister-in-law, Elsie Copan, and ofcourse with Ella, owned and operated the Top Hat cafe on Vernon's main street for many years.
When the family decided to sell the cafe, Steve went to barbering school in Vancouver. Subsequently, Steve became a well-liked barber located in the well-established barber shop at the front of the National Hotel on Vernon's main street.
There, Steve continued to barber hair and contentedly socialized with his many regular customers until his retirement in 1981.
Even in retirement, Steve (and of course Ella) continued to work -- as managers within the six-plex where they resided. They kept that place spotlessly clean, maintained a fabulous veggie garden behind the building and made sure the building had excellent curb appeal from the front. And I dare say, if he had been feeling better Steve would have dearly liked to have managed the cafeteria at Gentle Waters Retirement Home -- for he regularly commented that if it were a restaurant it sure wouldn't be making any money!
Steve didn't want to be like wheat grain stored in a silo -- just going up and down in the same old place.
So, he left farming when he enlisted into the Canadian Army in November 1942. Steve served with the Westminster Regiment motor battalion. He served in the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Belgium. Like wheat that is moved, pressed and crushed, but always transforms with grace, so too did Steve transform with grace from farm to soldier and back to civilian life. You see, serving with the Westminster Regiment during the Italian campaign would have been difficult. Very difficult. However, despite what he went through Steve held his war-time experience in high regard and did not speak of it with negativity. Each year, Steve honoured Remembrance Day. He felt discouraged and angry with those who treated the day lightly.
Wheat has a life beyond just having life as a plant, and Steve was ready for life beyond work. He had a wonderful life with Ella after he retired from the barber shop. Together, Ella and Steve enjoyed many travelling adventures including trips to Hawaii, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Cuba, a Caribbean cruise plus lots of North American travel in the motor home.
And in between the big trips, Steve and Ella enjoyed countless little fishing trips and many days of sunshine and good times with dear friends like the Watsons and the Sorensons.
The image of swaying golden wheat fields is a beautiful image, and so too was the image of Steve the dancer. Steve loved to dance. He was a very good old-time dancer. His sister Marian and his nieces can remember learning to dance by standing on Steve's feet while he waltzed and did polkas with them.
He and Ella enjoyed many wonderful evenings of dinner and dancing together. Steve was a good dancer and in June 2007, at 90 years of age, he was still dancing -- a polka with his sister, Marian, and a waltz with his sister Elsie, as the three visited together at Pioneer Village in Regina.
Steve always enjoyed a good card game (especially if he was winning), fishing the lakes of the interior plus ocean fishing at Campbell River, curling (he was very proud when he was a member of the team of 88's -- four 88 year-old active curlers of the Vernon Curling Club). He was also a member of the Schubert Centre Snooker Club. He actively enjoyed all of these activities in his retirement years.
Ella Kryptul entered Steve Copan's life like the proverbial breath of warm, sweet, fresh spring air on a Saskatchewan wheat farm. It was in Vernon where they met, that Steve married Ella -- his best decision every. Steve and Ella were each other's Everything. They never stopped loving one another.
I had the privilege of observing them together during those last very difficult months, when Steve was so desperately ill. Their recurring request, the one thing they repeatedly asked health care staff to ensure -- was that they be allowed to live together again. That wasn't possible. It was horrible for them to be involuntarily separated for medical reasons.
So many times during those final months, I heard Steve say to Ella "I love you, Sweetheart." Theirs was a great love disguised in ordinary life and humble ways. Steve Copan passed away at Creekside Landing on June 27, 2008, still enjoying the steadfast comfort of more than 60 years loving devotion from his dearest friend and wife, Ella.
Wheat faces diseases, pests, disorders and stresses. Naturally enough, there were all of these in Steve's life over his many years. He did his best to deal with what he was handed. But he couldn't overcome the issues of aging -- those were the strawbreakers for Steve.
The family extended gratitude to all of the caregivers who cared for Steve during those frustrating, difficult and painful final months. The greatest gratitude goes to Ella -- she was always there for Steve.

And now as we close our time together here, please capture your favourite memory of Steve as we listen to his favourite hymn, "How Great Thou Art" sung by William Brookfield.

Precious Stones Ceremony

To thank Ella for her unceasing care of Steve, Willow will gather the stones you've lovingly held -- each one a symbolic reminder of our love. Willow will give the basket of precious stones to Ella to remind her we know how hard it is for her to live in a world that now longer contains Steve.

William Brookfield plays instrumental music as Willow collects the stones and gives the basket to Ella.

Thank-you for being here. Rest with your thoughts for a few moments and then when you feel ready to leave, we will proceed to Kinsmen's Beach on the shore of Okanagan Lake. There we will bid our final farewell to Steve.

Music played by William Brookfield.

(Created by and prepared for the exclusive use of Celebrant Teresa Andrews for the Celebration of Life Service for Steve Copan.)

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