Deborah “Dee” Lynn Derrington Copeland, age 69, of Milton, Florida, went home to be with our Lord on Saturday, December 15, 2018. She was born July 28, 1949 in Pensacola, Florida.
Dee was a 1967 graduate of Provine High School in Jackson, Mississippi. She received her Bachelor of Education degree from Belhaven College in Jackson and her Master of Education degree from the University of West Florida in Pensacola. She began her teaching career in 1972 at Mowat Junior High in Panama City, Florida. In 1980, she joined the faculty at King Middle School in Milton, where she worked until she retired in 2015. After a brief retirement, she returned to teaching at Beula Middle School in Escambia County, and taught until her passing. As a result of her commitment to excellence and service, Dee received a myriad of awards, including the Alpha Delta Kappa Educator of the Year in 2012, the Governor's Award in Education, the International Award ISTE Ana Mackay-Gutierrez Award for Community Giving, the Santa Rosa County Volunteer of the Year in 2006, the Veteran's State Teacher of the Year in 2007, and the King Middle School “Teacher of the Year'' award three times throughout her tenure. In addition to her career, Dee was a longtime member of First Baptist Church of Milton, where she actively served as a Sunday School Teacher.
Dee was preceded in death by her loving husband, Grady Copeland and her parents John and Sara Derrington. She is survived and lovingly remembered by her two daughters, Shannon Copeland Clark and her husband, Rusty, of Atlanta, Georgia and Tracy Adams and her husband, Jason, of Milton; one son, John Copeland of Milton; two sisters, Barbara May of Pensacola and Vicki Kowalski and her husband, John of St. Louis, Missouri; four grandchildren, Philip Lee and Dalton Adams and Ashley and Alex Clark; and many adoring nieces and nephews.
Before she was a wife, mother or teacher, Dee was a sister. We often hear about the common characteristics of the “middle child”, but one that is not typical is that of leader. From an early age, Dee set herself apart as a caretaker, role model and encourager of her siblings. Often caught in the middle, she is remembered as being fair, a compassionate listener and wise advisor. Perhaps it was in the early years of her life that she developed the necessary skills to teach.
When Christ is referred to as Teacher in the Bible, it is when His followers address Him directly - when they come to Him for counsel, guidance and the truth. In these moments Christ shows his tenderness:
“When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and he felt compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”
There were times when His disciples did not understand His ways, His timing. But, beyond searching for an answer, it is important to remember his first emotion toward those who were seeking: compassion. It takes love, first and foremost, to guide others in the ways that are right and good. Dee loved the Lord. He was her example. It was evident in the way she lived her life, in the way she served others and in the way she taught.
Beyond her many accomplishments and awards she received as a teacher, it will be forever branded in our memories the countless students and receivers of her kindness that flooded the hospital corridor and room in her final days to tell her how much she was loved, and even more precious, how they were loved by her. In our hearts, there is no greater legacy, no greater achievement than to live a life of true compassion. To put others before yourself.
Dee was the original “steel magnolia” – a strong, southern lady with a vibrant sense of humor. She was as quick-witted as she was warmhearted, as doting as she was encouraging. Widowed at a young age, she was steadfast in her determination to raise three children, whom she loved beyond measure. There was no greater joy in Dee’s life than being a mother and grandmother. For them, she worked to her fullest capacity, gave back to the community in countless ways and served the Lord with her whole spirit. She wanted the best for those around her - a true teacher in every sense. She guided, motivated and found ways to make learning more approachable. She was creative, uplifting, and had an infectious laugh. She firmly believed that a large dose of “bling” made everything better, and that big hair was closer to heaven. She was full of life and more precious than rubies…
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Dee will be dearly missed and is deeply loved.
Love is the ship we build with faith, hope and compassion. To travel the river together, it is the voyage of life. Love is a mystery. It is the greatest of contracts, the sweetest of promises – to keep each other afloat amid the storms, to keep each other laughing amid the sorrow, and faithful amid the darkness. It is a gift from God, the source of this love and of the river itself. The One who will carry and guide us from this shore to the next.
The family wishes to thank the doctors, nurses and staff of West Florida Hospital in Pensacola and Shands Cancer Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville for their care during the time of her illness.
Visitation will be held on Wednesday, December 19, 2018 from 5:00pm - 7:00pm at Lewis Funeral Home, Milton Chapel. 6405 Highway 90 West Milton, FL 32570
Service will be held on Thursday, December 20th, 2018 at 12:30pm at First Baptist Church of Milton. 6797 Caroline Street Milton, FL 32570
Interment Location will be Hickory Hammock Community Cemetery. 8351 Hickory Hammock Road
Milton, FL 32583-3168
The family extends their heartfelt gratitude to the following:
Honorary Pall Bearers:
All former students
King Middle School
Beaulah Middle School
Locklin Vocational School
Members of First Baptist Church of Milton
John 14: 1-3
“Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”