By Ronnie Henderson
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them” (Rev. 14:13). Jady Wilson Copeland, one of God’s children, died in the Lord on Monday, December 11, 1995. He now rests from his labors and his works follow with him.
Our dear brother was born to J.A. and Georgia Copeland in Pike County, Arkansas on August 28, 1922, the youngest of their thirteen children. He was raised in a God-fearing home, receiving the love of his parents and siblings.
He leaves behind his loving wife, Dorothy; their three children, Neva Hoffman, Wilson Copeland, and Mary Broadwell; their three “children by marriage,” Doug Hoffman, Becky (Hunter) Copeland, and Marty Broadwell; ten grandchildren; one brother and three sisters; a large number of nieces and nephews; and thousands of friends.
Jady was born into the family of God somewhere around the age of fourteen, having been taught the word of God by his parents and others. As a penitent believer he was baptized into Christ and dedicated the remainder of his life to serving the Lord. His personal records indicate he preached his first sermon at Two Bayou (near Camden, Arkansas) on December 28, 1941.
On the day before his death he led the congregation in singing at the Sunday morning service active right up to the end of his earthly life.
On October 12, 1945, Jady married Dorothy Risley. They celebrated fifty wonderful years together just a few months ago. He spoke frequently of his love for her and of her helpfulness and encouragement to him. From this union there were four children Neva, Wilson, and Mary, plus Scott who died in infancy. Three months before his death, Jady wrote a brief article on the subject of heaven. In it he said, “I know not whether we will know loved ones there, but if so, what a bonus! I want to see our little Scott who lived a few hours. I want to see Mama and Papa and hundreds more I’ve worked with and loved. Brethren, let us not jeopardize our chances by our lukewarmness, missing services for insignificant reasons, `excuses’ that do not excuse us from work, thoughtlessness of others, indifferences, evil communications, harsh words, immoral practices, and lack of faith! Please think!”
This humble “country preacher” (a compliment in the Copeland family) did his earliest regular, weekly preaching in Springdale, Arkansas and Arp, Texas, while supporting himself and his family as a school teacher. His first full-time preaching labors began in Greggton, Texas, followed by periods of work in Beaumont, Center, and Ft. Worth in Texas; Long Beach (two congregations) and Sepulveda in California; Fayetteville, Arkansas; Lakeland, Florida; Springdale, Arkansas; and back to the same congregation in Florida (Lakeland Hills Blvd.) where he served as a full-time elder. In addition to conscientiously doing the things an elder should be doing with his fellow elders, he took a load off this writer by doing things like putting out the weekly bulletin, preparing daily radio spots, and other such things that might normally be done by the local preacher. Brother Jady taught Bible classes at the meeting house and in private homes at every opportunity. In his lifetime he preached in at least 204 meetings in at least twenty-five states, plus in the Philippines and the Virgin Islands. He was also a Staff Writer for this magazine.
Jady was a good preacher. He was a good preacher because, like Ezra, he “set his heart to seek the law of Jehovah, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances” (Ezra 7:10). And I emphasize “to do it,” for he practiced what he preached. Others may know more about Hebrew and Greek, or possibly be better orators, but the thing that made brother Copeland’s preaching, teaching, and writing effective is the fact that he demonstrated his faith in the word he taught by living it daily.
Jady was a good preacher because he understood that “a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition. . . .” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). He was always considerate of others, able to disagree without being disagreeable. And at times it was necessary to disagree, because he refused to compromise the truth of God’s word.
Jady was more than a good preacher he was a good man. He heeded the words of Scripture: “Be thou an ensample to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). His example is his legacy he left for his family, friends, and acquaintances. He was never content with the level he had attained, but was always striving to improve. This is exemplified by the final entry in his journal, written at 11:55 p.m., December 10, 1995, less than twenty-four hours before his death. “I was just thinking . . . `He that has ears to hear, let him hear’ (Jesus). God gave us the ability to reason, understand, and think. We all have `ears’ but often we don’t use them. We don’t `hear’ him. By his mercy we have all the equipment to do good to be who he wants me to bebut how often we fail to take advantage of these facilities to be the productive and faithful child he wants us to be. `He that has ears to hear, let him hear.’ Oh, how I need to listen.’ JWC”
We thought Jady was in pretty good health for a man of seventy-three years because of his mental alertness and physical activity. His sudden death was a shock to all. Word of his passing spread rapidly and about 250 gathered to visit with the family on Thursday evening, December 14th. The funeral service was conducted the following afternoon in the meeting place of the Lakeland Hills Boulevard congregation where he had labored from June 1979 until June 1987, and again from August 1989 until he went to be with the Lord. The auditorium was filled, and it was necessary to place chairs in the auditorium to accommodate the crowd of family and friends.
Hall Davis, a fellow-elder, led the audience in singing three songs: “Immortally Arrayed,” “Face To Face,” and “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand.” Brief words were spoken by the son and both of the sons-in-laws telling of their fond memories of Jady’s sense of humor and humility; his loving acceptance of, and concern for others; and the importance of our imitating his faith. A nephew, Milton Copeland, reminded us of his uncle’s unpretentiousness, hospitality, love of family, and labor for the Lord.
This writer then talked about Jady’s ability to end his earthly journey in the same manner that the apostle Paul ended his journey to Rome: “He thanked God, and took courage” (Acts 28:15). Jady had much to be thankful for, and he frequently expressed his gratitude for having a Savior, spiritual blessings in Christ, the word of God, the Lord’s church, a hope of heaven, his wife and other family members, his brothers and sisters in the spiritual family, material blessings, etc. He took courage from the fact that “the Lamb shall overcome . . . for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they also shall overcome that are with Him, called and chosen and faithful” (Rev. 17:14). Because God gave us the privilege of knowing Jady, we can give thanks and take courage.
Following another prayer, the audience stood and sang “Soldiers of Christ, Arise.” Services were concluded at the burial site in Lakeland Memorial Gardens, with an-other nephew, Wallace Alexander, reading from the Scriptures and another friend, Walt Hunter, leading the group in prayer.
I do not think of what has happened as simply an old soldier of the cross having fallen in battle, but as an heroic warrior who has been promoted to a higher rank in the Lord’s army above the battle fray. He will be missed by those of us who are still on the battlefield for our Lord.
Guardian of Truth XL: 2 p. 16-17
January 18, 1996