Celebrating Pat

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Celebrating Pat

A Life in Full Circle

Celebrating Pat

As told by George Copa

Produced by Family Heirloom Arts


Portland, Oregon

George Copa: Memorist, Writer, Oral Historian, Author

and Photography Editor

Kristin Cooper: Memorist, Writer, Editor and

Photography Editor

Vincent Copa: Memorist, Editor and Consultant

Owen Cooper, Emma Cooper, Grace Copa, Nathan Copa:

Contributing Artists and Writers

Lisa Kagan: Director, Oral Historian, Writer, Artist,

Photography Editor and Book Designer

Jane Plihal: Editor and Proofreader

Ellen Wax: Proofreader

Content for this book is based on oral history interviews of

George Copa, Kristin Cooper, Vincent Copa, Philip Cooper,

Alicia Copa, Anita Murphy, Mary Lou Shaw, Linda Barnes,

Joanne Murphy, Claudia Murphy and Thomas Murphy.

Interviews were conducted by George Copa and Lisa Kagan

during 2009-2010.

Copyright © 2011

George Copa and his heirs

All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents

without permission is prohibited.

Printed by Stevens Printing,

Portland, Oregon.

Book binding by Grossenbacher Bros., Inc.

Front Cover Caption:

A collection of images celebrating Pat and her relationships

with her family.

Cover design and heirloom art images by Lisa Kagan.



A Vibrant Spirit Blossoms


Caring for Causes


Caring for People


Caring for Animals


Caring for Adventure


A Year of Serendipity




For Patricia Murphy Copa

Like us for you

A labor of love



About This Book

The purpose of this book is to help honor Pat Copa. At its

heart, this project has been conceived and motivated by the

desire to keep her story alive for her grandchildren: Nathan,

Grace, Emma and Owen. Our aim is that they will pick up

this book and find it grounding and insightful at many times

throughout their lives as they ask, “I wonder what Grandma

would think or say about this?”

With the grandchildren in mind, this book has been

written in my voice and is meant to take the form of a conversation

or story. The first chapter, entitled “A Vibrant Spirit

Blossoms,” is a biographical collection of stories and images,

which takes us through the different phases of Pat’s life in

chronological order. The title highlights the way Pat’s indomitable

spirit grew out of many of her early life experiences. The

opening chapter is followed by four theme chapters, which

illuminate major aspects of Pat’s character—caring for causes,

people, animals and adventure. Each theme also characterizes

a strength of one of our grandchildren. Each grandchild

embodies a part of Pat’s living heritage—strengths they can

use as a guide and others can recognize and enjoy as they

grow and develop. The theme chapters are presented in the

birth order of the grandchildren from oldest to youngest. The

final chapter is entitled “A Year of Serendipity” and highlights

the last year of Pat’s life. That year unfolded almost as if it

had been predestined to be her last year with resolution of

ongoing worries, happy memories and deeply heartfelt conversations.

The chapter concludes with insights that can be

drawn from Pat’s life put forth as hopes and wishes for each of

the grandchildren as individuals and collectively.

The initial impetus for this book came from Kristin. She

was inspired by a family history workshop she participated in

with Lisa Kagan, and conceived of the idea of creating a book

in honor of Pat. Kristin also made many special and creative

contributions when I got stuck at points during the writing

process, when we were searching for just the right words for

a key passage in the narrative. She was my trusted partner

in every meeting with Lisa Kagan over a period of two years

as we worked through purpose, organization, textual content

and picture selection. Vince served as an invaluable consultant

and editor for tone and content. Because he was more

physically distant, living in Minnesota while Kristin and I

were in Oregon as was Lisa, Vince served an independent

third party advisor. We relied on him to maintain a big picture

perspective as we worked through the details, give honest

feedback so we did not overlook important pieces and give

balanced attention to the components of Pat’s life.

As Kristin, Vince and I moved forward with developing

the book, it became more than a story of Pat’s life with us. The

planning and organizing, workshops with the grandchildren,

interviews, sorting through family files and editing hundreds

of photos became a healing process for each of us and the

other people mourning Pat’s loss. It often brought both smiles

and tears (more of the former) as we relived everyday life

and special events with her. It provided us an opportunity to

reminisce and record our thoughts about Pat, many of which

we wanted to preserve and would otherwise fade with the

passing of time. This book provides a space to bring the many

anecdotes and artifacts of a family’s experience together into

some kind of order. It should be clear as you read this book

that we are very proud of Pat and exceedingly grateful that

we had the special opportunity to know her intimately, to love

her deeply and to be unconditionally loved by her. Now that

we have experienced some time without her, we have come to

more fully understand and sincerely appreciate Pat’s force of

personality, character, love, commitments, energy and competence

in positively shaping her life, our lives and the lives of

those around her. She must be smiling at this heritage.

With special love and regard,

George, Kristin and Vince, November 4, 2010



A Vibrant Spirit Blossoms

Pat was born in the Pacific Northwest and the region

drew her back years later. As she grew as a person,

she was able to build on her strengths and sources

of inspiration to find a place that fulfilled her, gave her

peace and brought so much to the people in her life. Even

as a young person, she was giving of herself, willing to

put her needs behind those of others, clear-headed about

what she wanted and an organizer and leader who could

competently direct and balance multiple activities at the

same time. As she went out on her own, she demonstrated

her hard-working nature with high standards for herself

and others, gracious social ability at creating a feeling of

comfort and unwillingness to be patient with incompetence

and unfairness. As an adult, she showed her skills

in creating a special home, loving family, and productive

workplace in her signature style with a spirited smile, twinkling

eyes, a quick and independent mind, untiring energy

and personal drive.

Pat's Origins, Simple Beginnings

Pat’s mother, Anita Delores Pauley, was of Italian, Swiss

and German heritage. She was born on June 14, 1922 in

Stillwater, Minnesota. Anita was the youngest of six children

in her family and grew up on a farm just outside

Stillwater. The farm’s toilet was in an outhouse all the while

Anita lived at home and they did not have electricity until

she was in high school. She studied by kerosene lamp

before electricity came and entertained herself by listening

to a battery-operated radio.

Anita went to a one-room rural primary school with

only 12-15 students; there were only two students in her

grade. Anita later attended Stillwater High School, where

her favorite subjects were English and mathematics, and

Anita Murphy

then she went to Winona Teacher’s College to prepare to

be a teacher. Her pioneering spirit was demonstrated by

her soccer playing at college. After graduating, she taught

school for two years before her visit to a girlfriend in San

Francisco, California, changed her life.

Pat’s father, Tom, came from an Irish and Italian family.

His mother, Ursula, helped her sisters run a hotel and

dining room and his dad, Tom Sr., worked in the coal

mines as a “rope rider,” electrician, and foreman in Red

Lodge, Montana. Tom was born on October 10, 1919, in

Red Lodge and weighed only 3 ½ pounds—they kept him

in a baby basket in back of the wood-burning kitchen stove

to keep him warm until he gained more weight. His mother

died of a chronic liver illness when he was 13 years old. As

a young boy, he loved reading and walking in the Cascades

forest. He went to high school at St. Martin’s boarding

school in Olympia, Washington. Tom attended the University

of Washington in Seattle and then the Boeing School of

Aeronautics in Oakland, California.



Baby Pat and Anita

Pat celebrating her first birthday with her father Tom



Pat as a young girl

Looking for a change the next year, Tom and Anita

moved back to Stillwater, Minnesota. Tom continued to

work for Northwest Airlines in the Twin Cities, and Anita

was back in the familiar place where she grew up. They

moved into a comfortable little rental house on Mulberry

Street in Stillwater and began to settle in. Anita’s parents

lived on a farm nearby and her siblings were close at hand

to help out. The next two Murphy girls were born there:

Linda in January 1949 and Joanne in December 1950. Pat

was the only one old enough to go to school during the

three years they lived in Stillwater, and she went to kindergarten

and first grade there.

In 1951, Tom’s father and Pat’s grandfather, Thomas J.

Murphy, died and the family inherited enough money to

purchase their first home. The big farmhouse, now at 6450

Pleasant View Circle in Chanhassen, Minnesota, needed a

lot of work, but had a lot of character. Although fixing up

a house was a bit overwhelming for a young couple with a

bunch of small children, Tom and Anita would go on living

in that house for 30 years and raise all of their children

there. Claudia was born there just before Christmas 1953

and Tom, the youngest, was born in the summer of 1957.

Everyone joked about how long Tom and Anita had to wait

for a boy. By then father Tom thought the family was big

enough. He had grown up in a family with only three children,

but Anita was one of seven. Of course everyone was

happy when “Tommy” finally came along to carry on the

Thomas Murphy name.

Pat went to second grade at a public school before spending

third through eighth grade at St. John the Baptist School

in Excelsior. After a year at a public junior high, she attended

Minnetonka High School. Anita returned to teaching as

soon as Tommy entered first grade. She taught first grade at

St. John the Baptist School for 18 years, and it was said, “She

could teach a rock to read!” Anita reflected—“I didn’t want

to just be a housewife!” She enjoyed working with her students

and made lifelong friends with the other teachers.

Pat had been through several cross-country

moves by 1950 when the family re-located from

Stillwater to the three acres in Chanhassen. By the

time I knew her, she already seemed like a little

lieutenant mom. I can picture her serious face; the

glasses perched up on her nose, helping to pull diapers

or snowsuits on people. People have always told

me that I have been good with kids, but I must have

been like her apprentice, as far as looking around

and seeing a model. She just assumed that role, and

took care of all of us.”

- Joanne Murphy

The Murphy home in Chanhassen, Minnesota


in her sorority—secretary/treasurer and also she held a

similar office at the Newman Club. Her leadership and

organizational skills were recognized and valued. Pat and I

used to compete for grades a lot when we were in the same

courses, and we always used to lord our successes over

each other in a fun-loving kind of way. She did better than

I did in biochemistry and never let me live that down. We

both were very good students and had among the top grade

point averages on campus.

During those three years of dating, I also got to know

Pat’s family. She was the first one of the Murphy girls to

bring a boyfriend home for an overnight stay, so all of her

younger siblings had a lot of fun teasing us. Pat and I were

in front of her house under the poplar tree and her siblings

were having a great time snooping on us. We did not

mind. I enjoyed getting a sense of how she had grown up

and liked talking with her sisters and brother and getting

to know her parents.

Pat also went home with me several times to Little Falls

to meet my parents and all five of my younger brothers. I

grew up on a farm, milking cows and raising hogs. It was

a new experience for everybody to have a girl around. My

mom really liked the help and companionship. Pat and I

used to go for long walks in the pastures, ride the minibikes,

and in the winter, the snowmobiles.

I was one year ahead of Pat so I graduated first and

began teaching vocational agriculture in the junior high

and high school at Alexandria, Minnesota, which is about

150 miles north of the Twin Cities. She had one more year,

including her student teaching experience. I made a lot

of trips back to the Twin Cities that first year of teaching.

In the spring, she decided to do her student teaching in a

small town called Sebeka, which was only 30 miles from

Alexandria. I was glad that she was closer and I could go

see her much more often.

“Being the youngest, I remember what a big

deal it was when Pat brought George home for the

first time, introducing him as her boyfriend. It was

very exciting to me. I was awful and merciless as

a younger brother; I sat around saying, ‘Georgie

Porgie, pudding and pie, kissed the girls (and made

them cry).’ Looking

back I realize

what a huge sign of

affection that actually

was. I really

wanted attention

from George, being

the only boy out of

five sisters, and I

was pouring myself

into it. Pat was very

patient and goodnatured

with me,

George and Pat out on a date

nobody sent me off to the lower quarters of the house

for my obnoxious behavior. It was like a miracle,

one of my first memories of my sister with a guy and

it turned out to be her mate for life. Pat would come

in just dressed to the hilt, I mean just gorgeous, and

I would be sitting there saying, ‘This is my sister!’

I was just in awe at that point. It was good for me

because it gave me a glimpse into the world outside

of the west suburbs of Excelsior, which was a lot

more isolated then than it is now. Pat would come in

and it would be like a princess coming to visit. For a

kid this was amazing.”

- Tom Murphy


Pat and George dressed up for a dance



Pat consistently translated her values into action.

Rather than spread herself over hundreds of causes,

she poured herself into ones that ignited her passions

and interests at different points in her life. There were

consistent themes that connected these causes. When Pat

believed in a cause, she gave her unwavering determination

and loyalty to it.

Caring for Causes

Passion and Purpose,

Pat's Causes

Throughout her personal life and career, two of Pat’s

most important causes were helping children and families

in need and empowering groups and individuals who were

outside the predominant power structure. She focused her

efforts especially on women, people from minority ethnic

groups and those who were poor. For Pat, working towards

gender equality was a central cause that she dedicated

herself to throughout her life. She felt that she certainly

had more opportunities than her mother did, but fewer

than I did. She always sought ways to encourage women to

empower themselves and realize their full potential.

One of the first times I saw Pat delving into a cause for

children and families was through the Latch Key Program

in St. Paul. Pat initiated and co-planned the first schoolbased

Latch Key program in the city. Latch Key serves

children and families by providing after-school, schoolbased

childcare through Community Education to fill the

gap between when kids get out of school and when parents

come home from work. The program is now widespread

in St. Paul. Pat would have been surprised and pleased to

learn that her nephew Tommy and niece Nora took part

in the program some 30 years after she helped initiate it.

Pat staffing the Community Education booth

at the 4th of July celebration in St. Anthony Park

Pat’s brother, Tom, mentioned that he only learned of Pat’s

involvement in founding the program when he attended

a retirement event for the co-founder of the program

after Pat had passed away. He was pleasantly surprised

to learn that his sister had been instrumental in creating

this innovative program that had benefited his family. The

co-founder, Beth Cutting, used this quote from Pericles to

describe Pat’s work, “What you leave behind is not what is

engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the

lives of others.” Pat did a lot of this kind of weaving in her

life through her work with the causes she cared about.

While our children were growing up, Pat was also

very supportive of the Newman Center and Chapel at the

University of Minnesota, an organization for Catholic

students with a liberal approach to community support.

We attended the Center as our place of worship, and it is

where Kristin and Vince got their early religious education.



Caring for Causes, Mixed Media Art by Owen Cooper

Caring for Causes

The Importance of Having Determination

By Owen Cooper, Age 10

My grandma taught me to keep working hard and do your best,

stay positive and never give up. My grandma worked with goats and

she was very determined to make the goats ribbon winners and make

them the best they can be.

I want to do good in school and to follow grandma’s example

and try hard at everything. Determination is important because you

always do good if you try your best, if you don’t have determination

you won’t do good at anything.

Owen building bird houses for Christmas gifts

“I see these qualities of loyalty and determination

coming out very strongly in Owen. He gets really

firmly behind something and is unwavering in his

loyalty. It sometimes makes things hard on him.

He is very committed to the sports teams that he is

backing and we support him in that. We were watching

the World Cup and following England to see how

far they would go. We knew that at a certain point

that they probably weren’t going to win, but he was

so loyal that he took it really hard when they lost.

Owen gets really indignant at baseball games if there

is a call that he doesn’t agree with. He can get really

upset about it because he has a sense of how things

should go and that it should be fair.

He applies this same passion to politics.

Through his friends at school he got very interested

in the 2008 presidential election. He was completely

behind Obama. I was on the fence with it

for a while, and he was okay with that. I think he

recognized that I had the right to my own opinion,

but he didn’t make any secret about what his feelings

were in trying to convince me.

He is really loyal to people in his family and

friends that he cares about. I remember once I knitted

a sweater for my husband, and it took a really

long time. I mentioned to Owen how long it was taking.

When my husband opened the present, he said,

‘Oh look, a sweater.’ Owen said, ‘Mama made that

by herself and it took her a really, really long time.’

That’s the sort of thing that my mom would do. I

always made my mom things as a child, and as I got

older I would take classes and continue to make her

gifts. She would wear them and be happy to receive

them. She was appreciative, which could be seen as

loyalty because they are not always the most obviously

precious items.”

- Kristin Cooper



Pat was always quiet about her decisions to care for

other people—she just did it without fanfare or

even letting others know. Her care began with her

family as she grew up the oldest of six—Joanne christened

her “Lieutenant Mom.” When I got to know her, she was

quietly caring for her dormitory roommates and sorority

sisters. When Pat left college, she focused on caring for her

expanding family—me, my parents and siblings and our

family together with Kristin and Vince. After that her care

expanded to the children, adolescents and parents in the

programs where she was a teacher in a wide variety of organizations.

Next came her sweetest and indulgent care with

her most prized family—her four grandchildren Owen,

Emma, Grace, and Nathan—each the apple of her eye.

Along the way Pat extended herself to many individuals in

Caring for People

Vince and Pat

hard situations who were in need of help: a niece interested

in the performing arts, a troubled teenager with little family

support, a woman recovering from debilitating surgery,

a woman in the final stages of ALS, another woman with

multiple sclerosis, and eventually her own mother, to name

a few. Anyone who knew Pat was aware that she was a very

busy person—always working on one thing or another

while balancing family and work responsibilities. I was

there for much of this caringtaking, particularly for our

families. Yet, much of this caring she did on her own, and

I took on a supporting role. I was there when she asked for

advice or needed help covering other things so she could

be gone. She simply took time out to care for people—it

was an essential part of who she was at heart.

This quality of caring for people was expressed in a

wide variety of ways. The most obvious

ways in which Pat cared for others

were by giving them food, helping

with their bathing needs, making

sure they had clean clothes, sewing

new clothes, helping with school

work, listening and giving advice.

After people’s basic needs were met,

Pat continued to care for others by

making places for them to feel comfortable

and loved, building their

self-confidence and their trust in her,

and bringing beauty to their lives. She

made each of our houses into a warm,

inviting, attractive, and unique home

through carefully selected decorations,

furnishings, reconfigurations,

remodeling and new additions. She

was also a master at making, selecting


The Strength of Her

Personal Relationships

Pat embodied the role of caretaker

in our family when we were raising

our children and in the other personal

relationships that were important to her

throughout her life. For our family, she

was always the go-to person when Kristin

and Vince were babies, children, and

early adolescents. This was the case for

the thousands and thousands of small

and large, routine and unique needs that

arose. While Kristin and Vince were

very young, Pat continued to work and

pursue advanced professional study, but

the children always came first. If there

was a conflict with our schedules, she

was usually the one to adapt. She would

make arrangements with neighbors and

friends to exchange child care so she

had time for her work and study. This

continued all the way through Kristin’s

and Vince’s elementary and middle

school years. Then she started more

intense work and concentrated study,

moving from her master’s degree to her

doctorate. Even during this period, she

engaged our children by involving them

in a slide presentation to use in her master’s

study. Throughout the process of

collecting data for her thesis, she would

bring Vince and Kristin with her to

observe parenting practices at the local

McDonald’s restaurant.

Pat with Kristin and Vince


“I think Pat’s ability to care for others is one of

the most important things about who she was. That

is what she did with us as her younger siblings; it

was always family first. It was the same with George

and their children; she was always so proud of them.

It couldn’t have been more perfect than for her to

have been gifted the four grandchildren. Her theory

was that she could never do too much for her kids,

and for the most part that worked out pretty well.

They are well-loved kids, and it shows, and the same

goes for the grandkids. Pat and George both modeled

being there and being very present parents, and

I think those four grandkids are lucky with that. It’s

cut short, but it’s going to be present for them. That

love doesn’t go away.

I felt very fortunate to have been a recipient of

that kind of love when Pat and George offered me a

place to stay so that I could go to the University of

Minnesota after my high school graduation. I had

dreams of going to Berkeley, but I had no money. I

was able to work parttime

during the school

year and throughout

the summers to put

myself through college,

but it was contingent

upon me feeling brave

enough to do that.

Having a supportive

place to be during my

first semester made

all of the difference.

They built me a room

Pat with Vince

Pat, bringing out cupcakes at Vince's birthday party

in their basement; it was a jumping off place to start

my life. I really enjoyed spending quite a bit of time

with Kris when she was still tiny, and I felt totally

comfortable around Pat and George’s house during

those five years until I left the Twin Cities area. Pat

always made me feel very welcome.

During that time when Pat was working on her

graduate program, her approach was a real model

for me, how she stuck to it. With two little kids, it

was not so easy. There were flurries of index cards

all over the floor. Watching her really solidified in

my mind the importance of setting goals and sticking

to them. It wasn’t so clear to me what she was

after, but it was clear that she wanted it badly. She

maintained absolute focus on Vince and Kris, from

their daily care to creating special parties for their

birthdays, while simultaneously pursuing her academic

goals. It was really something to see.”

- Joanne Murphy


Pat with Emma and Owen

Pat feeding Owen his first baby food

Pat tickling Owen


Pat and George enjoying Emma's first steps


“Before Vince and I got married and bought a

house, we decided it’s time to get a dog. I got a pug

dog from a breeder that turned out to be a “puppy

mill,” and the puppy died four days after we got her.

It was just horrible. She was only the size of the palm

of my hand. I held her while she had her last seizures

and drew her last breath. It was devastating to me.

I stayed in the room when she was put to sleep. Pat

knew how awful that was. I was an emotional wreck.

We talked about the possibility of getting

another dog, and I said, ‘We can’t because it is a

very contagious disease, and you can’t bring any

other animal into the environment for18 months

until they are fully vaccinated.’ Pat went out and

found a dog in Oregon. She raised her until she was

three months old, took her to the vet for her vaccinations,

then had her blood tested to make sure

that she had enough antibodies so she wouldn’t get

the disease. Vince went to their home for Thanksgiving

and brought back this perfect puppy that Pat

had given to us. Strangely enough the puppy, who

we named Addie, has the same birthday as Vince.

She did that for us, and it is not easy to bring a

puppy into your house. They’re not potty trained or

anything, and she never complained. She was very

proud of how she had made us so happy by giving

us this dog. Addie is now going to be ten, and every

time Grandma Pat would come, she would be just

beside herself.

As our relationship progressed and we started

our family, Pat was always there anytime you needed

her. Even if she was halfway across the country, or

if she was busy at a conference, if you needed her,

she would drop things and come. She came for the

birth of each of our kids. She arrived about a week

after Grace was born when we returned home from

the hospital. It was really helpful to have her there

because Grace had her days and nights mixed up. Pat

would take her at night so we could get a little bit of

sleep, and then Pat would sleep during the day.

Then when I was pregnant with Nathan, I got

sick and I was in the hospital for I don’t know how

many days, and Vince needed somebody to watch

Grace. He called up one night and said, ‘Mom, I

need you,’ and she was there the next morning.

Anything you needed she was there. With Nathan,

we knew that I was going to have a C-section so we

scheduled it six weeks out so that I had coverage,

somebody to take care of Grace the whole time after

Nathan was born. Yet Nathan decided to come a

month early and so we called Pat and said, 'Nathan

is here.' She flew out the next morning and was there

to take care of Grace so that Vince could be with me

during the days. Pat actually introduced Grace to

Nathan. She brought Grace up to the hospital, and

sat down in the chair with Grace on one knee and

Nathan on the other and said, ‘This is your baby

brother.’ She was smiling and laughing, and Grace

was holding Nathan’s face in her hands.

When Pat and George were delivering goats

about three years ago, they were coming through

Minnesota and planning to stay a few days and

then head on. My grandmother called to say that

my grandfather was in the hospital and needed a

triple bypass. They’re in Arizona, so I asked Pat and

George, 'Do you mind staying?' Vince was flying


Pat introducing Grace to her new baby brother, Nathan

out of the country for work and there was no one to

watch the kids. No problem. They just rearranged

everything and stayed so that I could go.

When Vince’s grandfather Tom was in the nursing

home, his grandma had to sell her cabin in Wisconsin

in order to pay for his medical needs. Vince and

I couldn’t afford it at the time, although we wanted

to keep it in the family. Pat and George bought the

cabin and made the mortgage payments for a year

until we were financially

ready, and then they

sold it to us. She took

care of things like that.

If she could work something,

or if she could

contribute to something

that someone wanted or

needed, she did it.

She had a friend that

had ALS, Lou Gehrig’s

disease. Every Tuesday,

she would go over

to Laurie’s house and

wash and style her hair,

and do her nails. She

would spend time with

her especially when she

was doing really poorly

and couldn’t do any of

those things. She did

this to give her husband

a break, and also

just because those are

the kinds of things that you would do for a friend

that couldn’t do it for themselves. I thought that was

really noble of her because it is really hard to watch a

friend die, especially from something so horrible like

that. She did it with grace and love; she wasn’t afraid

of her friend’s disease. Some people would back away

from others when they are sick, but she never did.”

- Alicia Copa


Vince also exemplifies that quality of caring through

his relationships with his children. He is tuned into them

at a high level all the time. He understands each one's

needs, interests, and personality—how they are similar

and different and responds accordingly with great success

and resulting mutual fondness. Grace and Nathan love

him dearly (as they do Alicia); he is a very important part

of their lives. He does what I did not do very much. When

he gets home from work, the children have his primary

attention until they go to bed. Then on Saturdays and

Sundays he is there for them fulltime with activities, new

experiences, and learning. He is focused on who they are

and how they are developing—they are very central and

precious to his life. For Grace, it could be encouraging her

to try something new or developing the patience to talk

something through. For Nathan it, might be practicing

a new sports skill or forming a collaboration so they can

work on mowing their lawn together.

“I think that it is wonderful how Vince and Kristin

have cultivated some of the best qualities of both

of their parents. I can see it in their intellect, generosity,

and ability to be good parents. I can see how

Pat and George influenced them in a positive way.”

- Tom Murphy

“When Pat gave our family gifts, they were not

something that she would just go and pick up off of

the shelf. She thought about it, and they were meaningful,

wonderful things. The last trip out before

she died, she and George had been in New Mexico,

and she gave Grace these beautiful Native American

placemats for the table. Cloth placemats with all of

the beautiful colors, and they had horses running on

them. She also brought her a book called, The Girl

Who Loved Wild Horses. It is a story about a Native

American girl who has wild horses. At kindergarten,

instead of bringing treats for Grace’s birthday, the

teacher invited the parents to come in and read the

child’s favorite book, and that was the book Grace

chose. She got Nathan a Native American story

about why the wolf is grey with a black tail. The wolf

started out blue, but he was mischievous, and he got

in trouble so his tail changed colors. Nathan loves

that book, too. She must have spent hours thinking

about the perfect gift. That was always wonderfully

endearing to us, and much appreciated.”

- Alicia Copa

Vince, Anita, Alicia and Pat


Pat teaching Grace how to fish at the family cabin in Wisconsin



Pat enjoyed a special relationship with animals, and

they played a significant role in our life together.

She loved animals and they loved her. At the core

of this connection was a deep gentle caring, bewildering

joy, boundless exchange, fulfillment of dreams, unwavering

loyalty, unexpected miracles and soothing internal peace.

Pat’s love of animals found its beginning and nurturing in

the Murphy family and was strengthened throughout her

life. Pat took pride in passing this love on to her children

and grandchildren.

Caring for Animals

Beginning of a Love Affair

with Animals

Pat’s caring for and

love of animals began

long before I knew her,

when she was growing

up in the Murphy

family. During her

childhood, the Murphy

family lived on the edge

of the Twin Cities with

several acres for pasture

and garden—it was a

neat place for animals.

In Pat’s family, not

only did everyone enjoy

Pat as a young girl

the animals, each took

a role in caring for them. Pat and her siblings embraced this

responsibility. She enjoyed having animals around and was

eager to attend to their needs—feeding, watering, cleaning

up after them, tending them when they were sick and

Thomas Murphy and the Murphy familly pugs

“We always had animals around the Murphy

household when the children were growing

up—most of the time we had a dog. First we had

Patches, the cocker spaniel, then Prince, the German

shepard, and later we had Pappy and Cookie, the

pugs. The animals were part of the family. It means

a lot to me that my children, grandchildren, and

great-grandchildren are good with animals. For us

they are not just animals; they are very special.”

- Anita Murphy


and worked evenings and weekends building

her goat enterprise. She then moved

to a faculty position at Western Oregon

University, only about three miles from our

farm, so she could return home during the

day and tend the growing herd of goats.

After two years, Pat decided to leave

professional education work to raise goats

full time. The goat enterprise tapped Pat’s

considerable energy, determination and

organizational skills. It modeled for me

how to make a smooth transition from the

field of professional education, where we

were both working, to a distinctly different

area of focus. I think this was one

of the best decisions of Pat’s life (besides

saying yes to me). She fell in love with this

endeavor and gave it her all. In return, it

gave her more than she could have imagined. It ushered

in a new level of love and commitment, deep caring, joy,

dreams, loyalty, miracles, peace, respect, self-confidence

and a new opportunity to teach.

By the time Pat died, she was known across the United

Owen and Pat with one of the young goats at Verdant Vistas

A baby goat nursing from its mother

“My mom’s work with goats almost seemed like

she was returning to where she came from. It was a

way to combine her affinity with animals with making

a contribution and being respected. That was

important to her.”

- Kristin Cooper


States for the physical quality of her goats, their friendly

personalities and the fiber they produced. Pat’s new goat

kids were sought even before they were born (she kept a

waiting list). In the Pygora Breeders Directory, you can

now find Verdant Vistas goats throughout the country, and

she received requests daily for her advice and support on

caring for Pygora goats.

A collection of the signs that Pat

had out in front of Verdant Vista,

updating the community on news

from the goat farm

Verdant Vista goats


Pat playing with the goats

Fiber from the goats

Pat with her goat Maggie at a dress-up event

Pat sharing her goats with children in the community

Pat with award-winning Killian at the Fiber Frenzy


Remembering Pat

Celebrating Pat’s Friendships in the Pygora Goat Community

When news of Pat’s death spread through the Pygora

goat community, we saw an outpouring of sympathy.

Everyone wanted to tell me how much Pat meant to

them and what a strong role she played in their lives

with their animals. One way Pat communicated with

the people in the community was through an online

discussion group where members usually talk about

their “goaties” as if they are referring to family members.

When Pat died, it was clear that, in addition to us

losing an important member of our family, the Pygora

goat community had lost an important member of its

family. Their thoughts and reflections on their relationships

with Pat have been a real gift to us.

“She was one of the dearest, most sincere,

giving people I have ever known. I would like to carry

on her effort to get Pygora fiber out to the world, not

just for the spinners, but also in yarn form for the knitters

out there. Pat truly was an inspiration to me.”

A Special, Inspiring Woman

“It was an honor and a privilege to have crossed

paths with a woman such as Pat. In this shallow

world that seems to be going crazy, it is a rarity to meet

such a hardworking woman who walked with elegance,

kindness, intelligence and class.”

“What a beautiful and inspiring woman. Her

spirit will soar as she watches all of us she has touched.”

Pat was such an inspiration to all of us with her vast

knowledge, her cheerfulness and her zest

for life.”

Pat was one in a million. The Pygora chat line has had

many who all have said the same—Pat was always there

to offer help, encouragement, to teach and teach again

for those of us slow learners and then when we finally

got it you could feel her smile.”

A collection of cards from Pat's friends in the Pygora Goat Community



Caring for Animals, Mixed Media Art by Grace Copa

Caring for Animals

As told by Grace Copa, Age 6

Grace taking Gretel for a walk

I have a lot of favorite memories of my grandma and I caring for

her animals. Gretel is a very nice donkey because she walks nice. I am

a very good animal trainer, I feed her apples. Briana is a very nice goat.

She is my friend, but she went to another farm. I pet her a lot and take

her out of the fence. Gretel would come out, too. Ben, the cat, was my

favorite and Jerry was a scared cat. Grandma gave me a rock horse on

the train. I have eyes like a hawk and ears like a mouse. I have a lot of

animals like my grandma, five duck eggs, a lot of fish, one hamster and

two dogs. I loved spending time with my grandma and her animals. I

always wanted to go down there everyday.

“When I think about Pat’s special connection

with animals, I see some of the same characteristics

in Grace. Grace has a special way with animals.

They are as drawn to her as she is to them. They

settle down and feel comfortable with her. It is

almost a spiritual kind of thing. When Grace comes

to Verdant Vistas, as soon as she gets out of the car,

she always wants to see the goats and lead around

the donkey, Gretel. She says, ‘Grandpa, come tack

up Gretel.’”

- George Copa

Grace and a young goat



Caring for Adventure

Pat’s passion for adventure and her multitude of

diverse experiences helped her feel comfortable

with change, build her self-confidence and increase

her competence in dealing with a variety of circumstances.

Her dynamic energy and creativity brought new

adventures and opportunities to her family and friends.

Our shared adventures helped to create some of our fondest

memories, allowing us to get to know each other in

deeper ways through sharing “quality time” and engaging

in conversation over challenges and joys in new contexts.

These experiences helped to build confidence and strength

in us as individuals and in our partnership. We learned

how to handle unpredictability, risk and change as it arose.

Throughout our travels, as one form of adventure, we

continued to discover more about the broader world physically,

geographically, socially and spiritually.

Pat’s sister, Joanne, got it right when she was reflecting

about Pat. She said, “Not many made better use of the time

they had.” Pat was a very spirited person, and, as Kristin

says, “Not easily settled.” I would add “if ever” because

it was rare to find her sitting still unless she was really

exhausted. But, often in her experiences of adventure by

herself and with others, Pat seemed more settled—at peace

with herself and very pleased with the impact she was having,

the difference she was making in the world.

“One of the main things I miss about Pat is just

her joy of life. I miss how totally involved she was in

everything that she did. Whether she was cleaning

the barn or doing other chores, it didn’t matter, she

was totally into it. She never passively observed life,

she was just in it.”

- Linda Barnes

“I will never stop being sad that we didn’t have

more time with Pat, but there are not many people

that have made better use of the time that they did

have in their lives.”

- Joanne Murphy

Pat and Erin enjoying Silver Falls in Oregon


Pat and Kristin playing in the backyard at the Copa house in St. Paul, Minnesota

and Mount Rushmore.

We also visited the

home of Pat’s ancestors

in Ireland—Pat and I

relished in the challenges

of driving on the left side

of road throughout the

country and picking up

peat samples to bring

home for our fireplace.

Pat even ventured to

Pat and Vince in Minnesota

Poland, the home of my

ancestors, and brought my Dad with her from Minnesota.

He had traveled very little by air and never internationally.

They met me in Germany for a train trip to Warsaw and

visited a small village where his parents grew up.

Together we introduced Kristin and Vince to the joys

of living in another country when Pat and our children

joined me for a summer in Portugal—I had gone a week

earlier to find a place to live during my Fulbright experience

there. Kristin started young with a trip when she was

“I remember the summer you guys went to Portugal

with two kids when they were still pretty young.

I just kind of stood back with my mouth wide open.

I mean, I couldn’t even keep the bird alive. It was

sort of awe-inspiring. Traveling was in our blood,

watching the airplanes go over, and Dad working for

Northwest. We all pretty much without exception got

that love of traveling. Pat was making that happen

with the kids still being little. I have a stack of postcards

from all of the times that she wrote when she

was off on her adventures.”

- Joanne Murphy

Pat and Vince playing in the snow in Minnesota


Vince, Kristin and Pat preparing to board a plane to Portugal



A Year of Serendipity

Pat’s final year with us was a very special year—

perhaps one she and we would have planned if we

knew what was ahead. It left her family with the

comfort of the experiences we shared and the memories we

made. This time was also an important reminder of all of

the gifts she gave us to carry forward.

Happy to Be on Her Feet Again

The summer of 2007 started with Pat’s amazing recovery

from a car accident two years before. In many ways the

first accident was very similar to the one that took her life,

just less serious. She had been up late the night before preparing

goat fiber and knitting products for display and sale

in a shop in downtown Portland. She drove up to Portland

that morning, spent the day at the shop in discussions with

the owner and then drove back to our farm in Salem.

It was a rainy day, she was tired and she was planning

to meet me about 20 miles south of Salem in Albany for a

retirement party for one of my university faculty colleagues

whom she knew and enjoyed. I talked with her when

she got home and suggested she not come because she

was tired and it was a dark, dreary night for driving. She

decided she wanted to come anyway and got on the road.

About 45 minutes later, I got a call from her that she

had fallen asleep driving, went off the road and drove into

an orchard and hit a couple of trees. She had managed to

get to her cell phone to call me and said she had a broken

ankle and could not move. She asked me to come quickly—

I was only about 15 minutes away. Before I got there,

someone had stopped and called 911. The police came and

an ambulance took her to the hospital in Corvallis.

It turns out Pat’s ankle was severely broken, and her

car was completely destroyed. The ankle was mended with

several metal

braces and a screw.

Her leg was in cast

for two months

and then she wore

a large black boot

with all kinds of

support for 2-3

months more. During

this time she

was not able to put

any weight on the

ankle and she was

supposed to take it

easy. Taking it easy

was not Pat’s way.

She still wanted to

Pat and Anita

be as independent

as possible and active with goat care, so I rented a couple of

motorized carts for her—a smaller 3-wheel one for in the

house and a larger 4-wheel one for outside. We installed a

ramp to go from inside to outside the house so she could

get between the carts.

Pat did amazingly well in bringing her life back to some

kind of normal routine and never once complained of the

pain and discomfort during this time. We even made long

goat delivery trips with one of her carts on board, and she

made the best of it in the pickup cab.

After awhile, Pat was on her feet again but could not

wear a regular shoe because the braces and screws were

irritated by any kind of tight covering. She also could not

walk more than a block without a lot of pain—she was

beginning to think that this was going to be the situation

for the rest of her life and that our plans would need to


She was almost home.

Summer evening: sunny, warm.

A long drive back from a wonderful

day at the coast with friends.

Looking forward to HOME—a place

of verdant vistas, deep satisfaction,

and people who loved and needed her.

Too hard to believe

that the car could find its way

through such a narrow path.

The road, while winding and turbulent

in many spots,

is flat and open here.

Blueberries at the height of perfection,

and peach trees with dangling globes

lay in the distance.

But here, there’s nothing but sun and the

heat and the quiet satisfaction from a

day well spent.

The droning of the car and sound of irrigation

in the field...the smell of new mown

hay and precious release of all

cares...and then...sleep.

Momma, grandma, goat lady.

Patty...Irish girl of wit and sparkle.

Teacher and caretaker for

the world around her and lover of life.

She was gone too soon for those that loved her.

A butterfly set free.

- Poem by Suzanne Brazier, friend, July 24, 2008

On the morning of July 18th, when Anita got up, she

asked about Pat right away and I told her of the accident

and Pat’s death. Later that day Vince arrived with Joanne.

Now I had the support of both of our children and Joanne

was there to help us and with Anita. We needed to do

some planning for a memorial service for Pat. We scheduled

a meeting with the funeral director at the mortuary

in Independence, a small town close by, where Pat’s body

was taken after the accident. Before we went, the three of

us sat down to talk about the memorial celebration that we

thought Pat would appreciate—no casket (she wanted to be

cremated), no formal church service, not too long, attended

by family and friends, held outside, some Irish music, at a

meaningful place, mainly women doing the talking. When

we got to the mortuary we picked out an urn for the ashes;

the mortuary director advised us not to view her body

because of its condition. In hindsight, that was a mistake.

We would not have had to see her whole body, but it would

have been nice to at least touch her hand for a last time and

confirm it was definitely her to make it seem real.

Creating a Memorial

We settled on holding the service at Mission Mill

Museum where Pat had exhibited her goats for the past

several years at their annual Sheep to Shawl event. It was

her favorite event to present her goats and introduce them

to mostly city families, especially children not familiar

with farm animals. There was no competition among the

goats and exhibitors; the focus was education and enjoyment.

When I told the Mission Mill administration of our

wishes and of Pat’s involvement there, they were quick to

give us full support. We selected the very same spot for

the ceremony where she had exhibited her goats and fiber

products. We placed the table holding the urn with her

ashes where her goat pens had been earlier in the spring.

I asked a friend, Jennifer Webster, whom I knew well


Another speaker at the service was Phyllis Quanbeck.

She had known Pat throughout her time in Oregon as a

colleague in the Oregon Department of Education and as a

close friend. Phyllis was very helpful to us in finding local

Irish singers and musicians, and we worked with them to

select the music and songs that would be performed.

Kristin typed the program for the memorial and took it

for copying. She looked at several quotations that could be

used on the program and that meaningfully fit the context

of Pat’s death.

Pat's urn surrounded by her yarn and favorite flowers

from my work at the university to be the facilitator for the

memorial event. She had brought her children to see Pat’s

goats at the Sheep to Shawl event the year before and she

was very thoughtful and skilled at presentations. We put

together a memorial service of about 30 minutes with two

major speakers representing different parts of Pat’s life. We

also wanted some words shared by her family—me, the

children, grandchildren and the Murphy family.

With the help of close friends and family, the plans

for the memorial came together. We asked a professional

photographer, Stan Harryman, who was a partner to one

of my professional friends, Susan Wolff, to videotape the

ceremony. Invitations were sent out through lists we had

of family and friends and through public announcements.

Pat’s friends in the goat community organized and served

a light lunch and beverages. Kristi Gustafson, a speaker at

the memorial service and a close friend who knew of Pat’s

work with Pygora goats and the goat community, organized

the refreshments.

“Tell all my mourners

To mourn in red—

Cause there ain’t no sense

In my bein’ dead."

- Langston Hughes

Memorial display for Pat


me messages at one or two in the morning? She always

said she got her “second wind” at that time of the night

and could get all kinds of things done. I will never

forget how she took the time to show me how to take

the photo of the goat, do the quick edit, print it on the

registration form and “voila,” I would have a registration

form ready for sending to the association! In all

honesty, I never quite got it the way she showed me, but

I learned enough to be MUCH better at it than I was.

Pat ALWAYS came around at buck show time to

offer her and George’s help in getting ready and setting

up. She always donated items for the door prizes

and, then later, for the silent auction table. Pat helped

with the registration table, the fleece judging tables or

wherever we needed help. We both knew how to get

our husbands to show those bucks while we were busy

with the show’s organization and paperwork! My only

regret in canceling this year’s buck show was not being

able to spend the time with Pat. We plan to resume the

show next June, so we will definitely present a memorial

to her. I remember Pat driving in with

marionberries, “just because” there

were lots at her house and she wanted

to share. I remember showing up at her

house to make skeins of yarn, wearing

a sweatshirt (no menopausal woman

should wear a sweatshirt!) and she

went to find me a t-shirt to wear while

I was there! I remember many talks

about PBA—Pat filled the Board position

which I had, and how optimistic

she was that “things” could improve. I

remember sharing her disappointment

that “things” did not change as much as

she would have liked. She was always

willing to stand up for what she believed, and I respect

her greatly for that. I am thankful that she was able to

see some positive changes within this last year in particular.

I will make it my personal goal to continue to keep

those changes being made, in Pat’s honor.

It was a true honor to have known Pat. Of course, I

regret not having spent more time with her. Life always

seems to get in the way of time spent with friends. I

am still struggling with the thought of her being gone,

but I am trying to learn from Pat and her life and death

what I can apply

to my own life. I

guess that is the

best we can all

do. We must go

on, as it is the

only proper thing

to do. It is what

Pat would be telling

us all to do! George speaking at Wilma's dedication

George sharing the story of Wilma's creation at the Sheep and Shawl event


Wilma the Goat

Message from the sculptor, Georgia Gerber

Presented by Darlene Chambers

Art is created for many reasons: for aesthetics, for

expression, for symbolism, for whimsy and often for

the honoring of an event or an individual. While creating

this sculpture of Wilma, the Pygora Goat, I felt all

of these motivations influencing and guiding me.

For a public artist it is both a challenge and a

pleasure to create a work that is meant to bring joy and

meaning to many people on many levels. I hope that

this sculpture, placed here

in this beautiful setting, will

bring joy to those who knew

and loved Pat Copa. I also

hope it is a delight to those

who may not have known

her but have come across

this small treasure because

they are here sharing in her

passion for the woolen arts

and the wonderful animals

that are at the heart of it.

Working with George

Copa on this project has

been an honor. From the

start it was clear he is a gracious

and loving man and it

has been a privilege to help

him achieve this vision. I

can’t help but marvel at the

serendipity of George and

his young grandson Owen

conceiving of this memorial

tribute, the family learning of my work not long after

and then Wilma ending up on a farm only a few miles

from my home.

When I visited Mary Donaty’s farm and saw

Wilma, I knew immediately she was the perfect model,

and that the sculpture could not help but turn out both

beautiful and endearing—with a touch of silliness that

would make it irresistibly loveable.

I sincerely hope, and expect, that the back of this

sculpture will be brightly polished by generations of

children who cannot resist becoming a part of this

tribute to a woman who so loved the young.




Owen, Emma, Nathan and Grace unveiling the Wilma sculpture

Following the artist’s statement, Peter Booth made a

few remarks regarding how pleased the Museum was with

having the opportunity to be a site for the goat sculpture

and how appropriate it was to honor Pat and recognize the

heritage of the museum. He paid special tribute to Owen

for conceiving the idea for honoring Pat in this way.

Owen then joined Emma, Grace and Nathan for unveiling

the sculpture for its very first public viewing. There was

loud applause and cheering and many bright smiles.

Owen was asked to step forward to read the text on the

dedication plaque for the sculpture. Following Owen, two

of Pat’s close goat keeper friends then offered their tributes.


Pygora Goat

In memory of Patricia M. Copa -

An exemplary goat keeper and beloved wife,

mother, grandmother and friend.

The Pygora goat was first bred in Oregon,

combining many of the best qualities of the

Pygmy and Angora breeds. Wilma, at six months

of age, was one of Pat’s award-winning fiber

goats, which she shared with children and

families at Mission Mill Museum on

numerous occasions.

Dedicated by family and friends

May 16, 2009

Sculpture by

Georgia Gerber

Owen giving his presentation


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