Fond tributes to ‘legion man through and through’

Flag raising for Armed Forces Day at Stamford Town Hall. Stamford branch Royal British Legion chairman John Copeland with the flag. Photo:  SM200611-004ow.jpg ENGEMN00120110620134153

Flag raising for Armed Forces Day at Stamford Town Hall. Stamford branch Royal British Legion chairman John Copeland with the flag. Photo: SM200611-004ow.jpg ENGEMN00120110620134153

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Tributes have been paid to a former Royal British Legion chairman at the heart of his community who would do “anything for anyone”.

John Copeland died aged 67 on October 29, after a short battle with cancer.

Stamford Royal British Legion- pictures for launch of Poppy Appeal. Pictured: Steve Bonde (left, branch secretary) and John Copeland (branch chairman),  'Photo: SM091009_009ow.jpg

Stamford Royal British Legion- pictures for launch of Poppy Appeal. Pictured: Steve Bonde (left, branch secretary) and John Copeland (branch chairman), 'Photo: SM091009_009ow.jpg

The South Witham resident was well known in and around Stamford, in no small part due to his towering height. But it was his selflessness, wit and warmth, particularly in his time as chairman of the Stamford branch of the Royal British Legion, that placed him firmly in the hearts of those he knew.

This week his family paid loving tribute to a man who made a big impression on the Stamford community. Daughter Alison Collinson described a father who loved a practical joke.

“Even from a young age, when we walked around Stamford it would take hours because he basically knew everyone. You would turn a corner and someone else would say hello.

“Everyone who met him would take to him. He was down to earth and would always have a joke.”

Parcels for the troops - Mercury appeal - Royal British Legion Stamford branch chairman John Copeland and secretary Steve Bonde with some of the goodies donated at the Stamford Mercury offices'SM021209-020js

Parcels for the troops - Mercury appeal - Royal British Legion Stamford branch chairman John Copeland and secretary Steve Bonde with some of the goodies donated at the Stamford Mercury offices'SM021209-020js

Alison and her brother Charles remember fondly the many jokes their father would play; on family members, friends and even strangers. John, an engineer who served for five years in the RAF, used to work on tower cranes in London, and a favourite target of his was the railway station ticket office attendant.

“Dad would always carry little exploding bangers with him,” said Alison, of Oakham.

“He knew the man in the ticket box always had his head down. So he would put a banger in his wallet so it went off when the man opened it.

“He would make the whole station laugh.”

Stamford Royal British Legion members John Copeland and Gordon Williams fix the new planters near the war memorial in Stamford's Broad Street ready for Sunday's Remembrance parade and wreath laying - Jonathan'SM-S110507_016js

Stamford Royal British Legion members John Copeland and Gordon Williams fix the new planters near the war memorial in Stamford's Broad Street ready for Sunday's Remembrance parade and wreath laying - Jonathan'SM-S110507_016js

It wasn’t all fun and games working on the cranes for John, who was hit by lightning while working at the top. But that didn’t change his outlook on life, which was to help anyone in need.

Charles said: “He helped people out. He made sure that they got the legion’s support.”

Alison added: “He was an amazing dad, brother and grandad.”

Alison thanked Barry Tanswell and his colleagues for their help in arranging the funeral.

Armed Forces Community Covenant being signed at Stamford Town Hall.  From left, Stamford branch Royal British Legion chairman John Copeland, RAF Wittering Station Commander Group Captain Damian Alexander, Mayor of Stamford Brian Sumner, Commandant of Kendrew Barracks Lieutenant Colonel Steve Lonnen and St George's Barracks Station Commander Lieutenant Colonel Mark Pullan.'Photo: MSMP011113-001ow ENGEMN00120130511095040

Armed Forces Community Covenant being signed at Stamford Town Hall. From left, Stamford branch Royal British Legion chairman John Copeland, RAF Wittering Station Commander Group Captain Damian Alexander, Mayor of Stamford Brian Sumner, Commandant of Kendrew Barracks Lieutenant Colonel Steve Lonnen and St George's Barracks Station Commander Lieutenant Colonel Mark Pullan.'Photo: MSMP011113-001ow ENGEMN00120130511095040

John, who lived in South Witham, was legion branch chairman from 2007. His successor Ray Beresford took over earlier this year when John fell ill.

Paying tribute to John, Ray said: “He was a legion man through and through. He would help anyone in trouble. It’s a big loss not only to Stamford but to the county as well.”

John was born in Ireland before moving with his family to Tolethorpe at a young age. He married Jacqueline, and they lived for some time in Essendine with their children. Jacqueline sadly died in 2007. He loved his seven grandchildren: Imogen, Jake, Georgia, Kieran, Amelia, Emily and Nicholas.

John’s funeral will be held at 1.30pm on Wednesday, November 18, at St Mary and St Augustine’s Church in Broad Street, Stamford. All friends of John are welcome.