Leonard W. Copple

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Leonard W. Copple Leonard Copple, a former Tempe City Council member and long-time community leader, passed away early Monday morning after a courageous battle with acute lymphocytic leukemia. Len was a native son of Arizona. He was raised in Yuma, where his father and his father's father made their homes. He married Jean Bailey, his sweetheart from Yuma High School, in 1960. They lived in Tucson while he attended college and law school at the University of Arizona. After graduation in 1965, he began active duty in the US Army, serving as a member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps and volunteering for service in Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and completed service in 1969. Len and Jean then chose to settle in Tempe, where they bought a home in a new neighborhood just south of Southern Avenue. He worked for Phoenix law firms for five years and then commenced a solo practice in Tempe, which he continued for 30 more years. Long-time Tempeans recall seeing the sign for his office on the north side of Southern Avenue just west of Price Road. In addition to his law practice, he was active in volunteer legal activities; he taught legal writing at the ASU College of Law and was a frequent lecturer at trial advocacy seminars; he served on the Maricopa County Judicial Nominating Commission and the State Bar Professionalism and Peer Review Committees, and was the Chairman and a Hearing Officer for the Disciplinary Hearing Committee; and he served as a Judge pro tem in Maricopa County Superior Court for ten years. Throughout his long legal career, Leonard was respected by other lawyers for his careful preparation and ethics, and admired by his many clients for his empathy and caring. He often reduced or waived his fees, and provided friendship and emotional support to struggling clients long after the legal work was finished. He remarked recently that helping people was the highlight of his work as a lawyer. Even while practicing law full-time, Leonard had a parallel career as a community volunteer and public servant. He felt a special commitment to the less fortunate, which led to his service as a member of the Tempe Salvation Army Advisory Board, and as a board member and President for Tempe Centers for Habilitation, which in 1985 named its vocational training center building after him. For many years he read law books for Recording for the Blind, and more recently drove for Meals on Wheels. In 2008, he and Jean went to New Orleans with the Presbyterian Disaster Association to work on a Habitat for Humanity home rebuilding project. It is not widely known that Leonard was a frequent blood donor and member of the ten gallon club. Leonard and Jean were early and active members of the Tempe Sister City Organization; Len served as Treasurer for many years and played an important role in organizing the annual Sister City Festival and Way Out West Octoberfest events that fueled the organization's early growth. He and Jean hosted several exchange students and official delegates from Tempe's sister cities in their home and traveled to Skopje, Regensburg and Lower Hutt with others from Tempe. Len worked tirelessly for decades, in many different ways, for the betterment of Tempe. He was a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission for nine years, and also served in the early 90's as Chairman of the Vision Tempe Task Force, which set an early foundation for many significant civic projects through its recognition of the importance of downtown Tempe and the revitalization of the Mill Avenue corridor. At various times he was a member of the City of Tempe Bond Committee, the Tempe Union High School Superintendant's Advisory Council, and the selection committee for Tempe Presiding Judge. He also served from 1992-1993 as chairman of the Downtown Tempe Steering Advisory Committee, which became the Downtown Tempe Community. For many years, Len's smooth voice could be heard on the City of Tempe's on-hold messaging system describing various community amenities and services. He was the recipient with his wife Jean of Tempe Leadership's 1994 Community Leader Award, and the Tempe Community Council named Len a "Tempe Treasure." In 1994, Leonard was appointed to serve out a six-month term on the Tempe City Council, and he was later elected twice to the City Council, serving from 1998 to 2006. Len's tenure on the council coincided with significant growth and development in Tempe, and he took particular pride in the evolution of the downtown area and his contributions to the Town Lake project and in particular the installation of the light rail system. He was a Board Member for the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority and played a key role in securing federal funding for the East Valley Bus Operations and Maintenance Facility, the Tempe Transportation Center, and the Central Phoenix/East Valley Light Rail Project. As Chairman of the Tempe City Council Transportation Committee, he led the implementation of Tempe's free bus pass program for youth and ASU students. He also recognized the potential benefits to the community of events that attracted visitors and raised the city's profile, and was instrumental in bringing the annual Rock 'N Roll Marathon and Ironman Triathlon events to Tempe. His council service was always motivated by a deep desire to do what he believed was best for the city and its residents, and he was widely respected for his insight, thoughtful approach to problems, directness, and integrity. Leonard's community service continued after he left the City Council. He was the front desk receptionist for the Tempe Community Council's Earned Income Tax Credit program for eight of the last nine years, and in recent years he was a board member and Treasurer of the Friends of the Tempe Center for the Arts. He took great pride in the newly completed Tempe Center for the Arts at the Tempe Town Lake. Leonard had diverse interests. As a teenager, he was an amateur magician, an actor in high-school plays, a debate champion, and governor of Arizona Boys' State. One of his earliest jobs was as a radio disc jockey during high school in Yuma. He was a talented handyman and enjoyed construction projects, some rather ambitious, at his home, office and cabin in Munds Park, where he and Jean spent countless happy days together and with family and friends. He also enjoyed gardening and consistently declined frequent suggestions from his children to "get some help with the yard." He was a long-time member and former Elder and Trustee of University Presbyterian Church, and more recently a member of Mission del Sol Presbyterian Church. He was deeply patriotic, he recently became a member of the Sons of the American Revolution and friends recall the American flag hanging daily from the eaves of his house. Like many other optimists, Len rose early, often before sunrise. He loved to enjoy his coffee and morning newspaper on the back porch of his long-time home in The Lakes. He was a very dedicated family man, supporting Jean's interest in genealogy with frequent trips to archives, churches and cemeteries throughout the US and Europe, and recognizing and nurturing the unique interests and talents of each of his children and grandchildren. He and Jean celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in March. Len had a profound influence on countless people and was widely loved for his friendliness, compassion, wisdom, humility and irrepressibly positive attitude. He passed away at the age of 68, but packed 100 years of service, achievement and happiness into that time. He is survived by his wife Jean and brother Steve, his son and daughter-in-law Brian and Pam Copple and their son Mark; his daughter Christy and her sons Trevor and Casey; and his daughter and son-in-law Cathy and Andy Swann and their children Tucker, Dillon and Lainey. Services will be held Sunday, May 23, at 1:00 pm at Mission del Sol Presbyterian Church, 1565 E. Warner Rd., in Tempe. The family
Published in The Arizona Republic on May 21, 2010
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