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Longtime Orland Park Resident Ruth Copeland Remembered for Kind Heart

ORLAND PARK, IL (February 24, 2018) --- Ruth (Bigham) Copeland is remembered for her kind heart, being proud of the military and first responders, and being a much-loved neighbor. Copeland died February 15, 2018 just 10 days shy of her 85th birthday.

One of the 12 children of Dorothy and Joseph Bigham, Ruth was born February 25, 1933 and lived in Chicago, Olive Branch and Fox Lake, Illinois as a child. She graduated from Grant High School in Fox Lake.

Mrs. Copeland converted to Catholicism in 1950 and married John Fox on June 3 of that year at St. Bede Catholic Church in Ingleside. The couple had two children, Mary and Joseph, named for Jesus’s parents by their father. John Fox died suddenly on May 2, 1964, leaving his young widow and two small children.

Ruth married Jim Copeland on January 29, 1967 shortly after the Blizzard of ’67 and adopted Jim’s son, Dwight, from a previous marriage. She became a stepmom to Jim’s children James, Robert, Ethel and Darlene.

The Copelands moved to the Orland Park’s Fairway Estates Subdivision in January 30, 1967.

“When we moved to our house on Fairway Drive in 1967, there were less than 10,000 people in Orland Park,” said Ruth’s son Joe Copeland, a retired Orland Fire Protection District battalion chief. “Orland Square was almost 10 years away and Orland Park was a small town where everyone knew everyone else.”

“A lot of the kids who grew up in Fairway came to my mom’s wake to say their good byes,” Copeland said. “We’re all adults now and it was neat to hear from many of them how they would ‘run away’ to our house. My mom would feed them, listen to them and send them home.”

Jim Copeland died January 28, 1989 and Ruth lived in the same house for 48 years until she moved to an assisted living facility in 2015.

“Everyone who lived in Fairway in Orland Park at that time shares a special bond coming from the same neighborhood,” Copeland said, adding that he raised his two children in the same subdivision.

“People who knew my mom called her ‘Ma’ or ‘Grandma’,” Copeland said. “She loved God, her family and friends, our neighbors, Vikings, the military, public servants, motorcycles and everything her grandkids did.”

Ruth Copeland enjoyed watching her grandchildren compete in sports and graduate from college.

A true patriot, she was very proud of all veterans especially her husband Jack who served with the US Army during World War II and earned five bronze stars.

“My mom was also very proud of our neighbor, Harold Lasch, who was a prisoner of war during World War II. And, she had a special place in her heart for her nephew, Ken, who was in the First Battalion Ninth Marines in Vietnam,” Joe Copeland said. “Her son, Dwight, served in the Marine Corps and her grandson, Brett is a major in the Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. My mom was so proud of all of them,” he said.

Mrs. Copeland worked for Bernie Brothers Bakery, for the Southtown Economist, at Western Electric and Itasca State Bank and at the bakery in the Orland Park Jewel on 159th Street.

“When she worked at Jewel, she loved to give white macadamia nut cookie samples to the firefighters who came to shop at the start of their shifts,” her son said smiling. “The guys always knew if my mom was there, they’d get cookies.”

“My mom was also really proud when neighbors, friends and even total strangers would tell her how some of the first responders she knew had saved a life or were there when someone needed them the most,” Joe Copeland said. “That always tugged at her heart strings --- hearing how her favorites had helped someone.”

Along with her children, Mrs. Copeland is survived by 14 grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren. Her siblings include Dorothy (Harold) Hemm, Joseph (Sue) Bigham, Jesse (Joyce) Bigham and the late Milton (JoAnn) Roseman, Virginia (Jerry) Plumbley, William (Anna Fae) Bigham, Betty (Logan) Bass, Leroy Bigham, Robert Bigham, Michael Bigham and Larry Bigham.

Visitation for Ruth Copeland was held Thursday, February 22 at Colonial Chapel in Orland Park. A funeral Mass followed on February 23 at St. Francis of Assisi Chapel at Franciscan Village in Lemont with interment at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside.

At Ruth’s wake, two funeral parlors were filled with flowers, family mementos and a slide show video that showed Ruth and the many people who were a part of her 84 years.

As mourners watched the video with smiling pictures of people from different parts of Ruth’s life, their eyes were drawn to a large platter of white macadamia nut cookies.

A small adjacent sign described how Ruth enjoyed giving the firefighters cookies when she worked at the bakery at Jewel, inviting family, friends and neighbors to enjoy one last cookie from Ruth.

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