Jean L. Copeland

Published 4:52 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Jean L. Copeland, daughter of the late Albert and Elbernia Lee, was born March 14, 1940, in the Town of Whaleyville, now Suffolk. Her early childhood education was at Robertson Elementary School where she continued her studies and graduated from Nansemond County Training School in 1958. She attended Virginia Union University, where she earned her bachelor of arts in history and sociology. Her love for education and leadership was realized by achieving a master’s degree in guidance from Virginia State University.

A dedicated, committed and unwavering educator, Jean was employed by the Southampton County School System for 41 years. She paid it forward and served as an educator and guidance counselor and retired as Director of the Southampton High School guidance department.

During Jean’s childhood years, she was a member of the Mineral Spring Baptist Church in Whaleyville. After marrying her husband, Enoch Copeland, she moved her membership to the Laurel Hill United Church of Christ in the Holland community. Within the church, she primarily focused on youth leadership and its governance structure. She served as assistant church clerk and later church clerk for 31 years. She also served as chairwoman of the Official Board, president of the Women’s Fellowship and organized Vacation Bible School. Her most noteworthy accomplishment was exposing youth to the world outside of Holland. She organized bus tours to Niagara Falls, New York; Toronto, Canada; the Baltimore Maryland Wax Museum; Frederick Douglass Memorial in Washington, D.C.; King’s Dominion; Busch Gardens; and Disney World Orlando, Florida.

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Jean’s servant leadership extended beyond her beloved Laurel Hill United Church of Christ. Within the greater UCC realm, Jean was chairwoman of the Southern Conference and chairwoman of Eastern Virginia Association Church and Ministry Commission of the United Church of Christ. She was also a past member of the board of directors of Elon University, Burlington, North Carolina, board member of Franklinton Center at Bricks and board member of the United Church Homes and Services Inc.

As a tireless servant leader, Jean held other key roles in the community. She was National President of Las Amigas Inc., National President of Virginia Union University Alumni Association and a charter member of the Franklin Tri-County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Inc. Jean was president of the Holland-Holy Neck Civic League, member of the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Board, life member of the NAACP, member of the Suffolk Electoral Board and member of the Suffolk Democratic Committee. Her commitment was noticed by the many awards and citations received. To name a few, Southampton Education Association Teacher of the Year, Virginia Union University National Alumnus of The Year, Franklin Tri-County Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated Recognition of Excellence, Portsmouth-Suffolk Alumni Chapter Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated Community Service Award, Las Amigas, Incorporated Service Award, Elon University Exemplary Leadership and Integrity Citation, and Area Two N.A.A.C.P Martin Luther King Service Award.

Jean Theresa Lee Copeland, lived by example and leaves her legacy with her husband of 63 years, Enoch (EC); two children, Rick (DeVetta) and Felicia; five grandchildren, Brittany, Maya, Robert-Anthony, Connor and Kamora; two brothers, Lexie Lee (Brenda) and Albert; one sister-in-law, Hilda Copeland Abram; many nieces, nephews and friends. A very special thank you to the caregivers who were very supportive during the past two years, Michelle Roberts, Catherine Jones and Beverly Copeland.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to either Virginia Union University vuu.edu/giving, 800-368-3227, or Franklinton Center at Bricks franklintoncenteratbricks.org, 252-437-1723. 

The celebration of Jean L. Copeland’s life is at noon Saturday at Mineral Spring Baptist Church, 4849 Mineral Spring Road (Whaleyville Station).

Services have been entrusted to the professional and caring staff of Wm M. Johnson and Sons Funeral Home, 757-562-3393. Please share your condolences with the family at wmjohnsonandsons.com.