He was the type of guy who still wrote thank you letters.
A guy who made it a point to remember people’s names. And if he were in line at Vons, address the checker by name and ask him/her about their day.
“A true gentleman.” That’s how former Mammoth Hospital CEO Gary Myers aptly described him.
But don’t mistake gentleman for stick in the mud. He wasn’t a stick in the mud. No stick in the mud could have landed Kathy Copeland for a wife.
Jack Copeland was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1951 and grew up in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. His father was a Sales Manager at Hercules Chemical. His mother was a homemaker. There were four children. Jack was the eldest.
He was the type of older brother who cared for rather than crucified his siblings. His brother Peter, six years his junior, referred to Jack as his “hero and protector.”
In 9th grade, Jack left home to attend the Holderness School, a preparatory school located in Plymouth, New Hampshire, where he played football and lacrosse.
He then went onto Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, where he majored in English and continued to excel in lacrosse for a team that routinely ranked in the top ten nationally. He was a tri-captain his senior season.
Post-college, classmate and lacrosse teammate Jay Elliott joined Jack on a cross-country automobile trip to Mammoth, where Jack was supposed to meet another Washington College student who had dropped out after two years – Scott Newman, son of actor Paul Newman.
Elliott said Newman and Copeland got a job installing chimneys on a condo project. The chimneys came in prefab kits. The pair didn’t know what the heck they were doing. The first chimney took them an entire day. They soon condensed construction time to about two hours, leaving the remainder of the workday to drinking beer.
It took awhile for the contractor to catch on that the pair’s increased efficiency hadn’t led to increased production.
But chimneys were just a diversion.
According to his 2009 company bio, at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Jack initially worked as a lift operator and a sporting goods salesman. His desire to ski led him to the ski school. For 24 years Jack worked as a ski instructor, then a supervisor of the school and finally as the director of the school.
It was in ski school that he met his wife, a fellow instructor.
As Kathy recalls, “One night, he wanted me to go to the Austria Hof with him. He said he had a toothache and wanted some help forgetting it.”
But theirs was not an immediate match. As Kathy said, “I liked the bad boys … and he was a back-east prepster.” But he ultimately won her over …
One summer, Jack taught skiing in Australia while Kathy remained in Mammoth. They were free to date others and did. Kathy was dating Jon Eisert when Jack returned home.
And he stewed for about ten days (they lived in the same house), growing more jealous by the minute.
Finally, one night, Kathy and Eisert return home from the bar in her 1954 Chevy truck. Eisert’s drunk as a skunk. As they pull into the driveway, Jack comes storming out of the house in a bathrobe, opens the passenger door, and shoves Eisert towards the middle of the bench seat.
Jack then pours his heart out and professes his undying love to Kathy and proposes right there.
They kiss (leaning over Eisert to do so). And that was that. They were married 41 years.
Tough part is, as Kathy Copeland can attest, that’s it’s really hard to break a 41-year habit.
“He literally has been my rudder, my anchor,” began Kathy. “To go on without him is freaky. He was my biggest supporter … I feel like my stuffing has come out of me.
If I can stop being so devastated, when I come to, I’ll recognize my good fortune [to have been with Jack for the time she had].”
And as she spoke, little details began to bubble to the surface.
Jack had a favorite flower: fireweed. “How many guys have a favorite flower?” she said with a mixture of pride and wonder.
Ane he had a surreal attachment to his dogs. Each new pup had him completely enamored.
He had a young Great Pyrenees when he passed. As Kathy says, sometimes she’ll call the dog to take a walk, and the dog just doesn’t want to go. The dog’s as depressed as Kathy.
And then there was Jack’s love of books. As brother Peter said, whenever he saw Jack, he’d always ask his brother what he was reading, and Kathy said Jack always harbored a secret ambition to be an author. “He loved to write.”
Golf? Single-digit handicap.
Jack was the ballast that people sought in whatever organization they were involved in. He sat on countless boards and there was speculation that he’d sit on countless more. If he’d ever run for Town Council, he would’ve won – no question.
He did serve on the Board of Directors of the Southern Mono Healthcare District. Former CEO Gary Myers was effusive in his praise and regard for Jack Copeland.
The Board is the policy setting body that guides and oversees the management of the facility and all aspects of operations. It is an unpaid, volunteer position either elected by the public or appointed by the Board depending on the circumstances of the vacancy. Jack’s amiable and collaborative style, business and leadership experience, and spirited generosity and optimism made him well suited for the job. He was a wise and stabilizing influence during difficult times and brought humor and his benign good nature to us all on a continuous basis. His influence on District policies in the areas of employee relations, workforce housing, and employee benefits are part of his legacy to ensure quality healthcare services for the residents and visitors of the Eastern Sierra. He was a true gentleman and a good friend. -Gary Myers
Almost to the bottom of the page and and we haven’t even mentioned that Jack served as Human Resources Director at Mammoth Mountain for more than a decade, or that he served as chairman of the National Education Committee of the PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America).
While working for the ski school Jack began a long relationship with the Professional Ski Instructors of America, starting as a trainer and examiner of instructors, then a member of the Board of Directors of the association, finally chairman of the National Education Committee of PSIA. Jack served PSIA for 18 years.
Kathy and Jack celebrated their 40th anniversary last spring at the Mt. Whitney Golf Course outside Lone Pine.
A celebration of a life very well-lived will occur at this little golf course that Jack loved when circumstances permit.