Andy “Papa” Cope

​”Papa” passed away on January 30, 2012.​
We felt it was now a good time to share his story…​

Andy "Papa" Cope

In the words of Andy’s granddaughter, Paula: I’ve been thinking about Papa’s life and the man that he was. It seems to me like he was a very versatile man, and depending on the nature of your relationship or dealings with him you would experience a different side of him. The experiences he had throughout his life that made him the man he became, are amazing. Papa was a part of what has been called “the greatest generation” – and that generation certainly lived through rapidly changing times.

Several years ago he began penning the story of his life, beginning when he was a young boy . He was born on July 21, 1924 in the Nantahala Community. His family survived from what they could get from the land, the crops they could grow and the animals they raised. In talking about his home as a child he writes: “It took lots of wood to keep us warm. No insulation in the houses. It took lots of cover for the beds. Most beds were feather. They were very warm with 4 or 5 quilts. I have woke up and found snow on top of my quilts…little fine balls of snow would blow under the split boards and fall on my bed.” Papa’s family survived by hard work. Papa said, “My dad would never take anything from the government…..of course, we didn’t know we was poor until the government told us.” Papa’s dad bought an “A” model pickup in 1931, and kept it until about 1936. “Pa” said when his oldest boy got old enough to drive he would sell the truck. He said it would be too much worry owning the truck and worrying about his boys using it. He sold it when his eldest son, Ben, turned 16.

Papa wrote about how they spent their days….working, hunting, fishing. A big thrill was to go to the store for groceries and get some candy from the store owner. He did make note that although he never got a bicycle as a child, he did get a big red wagon with sides on it! It was store bought- not homemade!

Papa wrote about one of his first paying jobs…picking beans for 10 cents per gallon. He also worked for the Hall family doing odd jobs. His first job of “big money” was with the English Lumber Company. He also got a job helping with the Utah Construction Company that was building the Nantahala Lake Dam, then later went to work in Ducktown, Tennessee. There, in the tunnels, he was seriously injured in an accident when a flat car jumped the tracks and threw a bottle of gasoline onto him. Papa spent 31 painstaking days in the hospital and was not able to work for nine months.

Papa didn’t write much about how he and Granny met, but it was at the Hall place in Nantahala. It’s pretty funny how many times he talks about Granny and her hair dressers in his writings….apparently this took a good portion of their time and energy.

He does however write about some pretty funny escapades he and his buddies had during his late teen years- but we’ll leave those in his journal.

Papa was inducted into the Navy in May of 1943. After his training he went aboard the USS Intrepid Aircraft Carrier, and for the next 26 months he was stationed on this ship in the Pacific. Just four months after going to sea, they took their first hit from enemy planes. He writes,”We was in battle with the Jap Navy and land based aircraft on Guam and Truck Islands. At 12:03 A.M., a Jap plane dropped a torpedo that hit our ship…..later we got hit with two suicide planes. Later we was hit with another suicide plane on Phillipine Islands. We lost 112 men when the two planes hit us. I made it through without a scratch. “ We were 2-3 months bombing Okinawa from carrier before the Army went on shore. Outside Okinawa we were hit with 3 suicide planes and lots of damage to the flight deck….we were 2000 miles from Japan’s main island, heading to bomb mainland when the first atomic bomb was dropped. We were ordered to hold back. We ran in circles for days until the next atomic bomb was dropped.”

Papa had a mind that was always thinking. He was planning his next project before he finished the current one. After returning from the war he tried his hand at several businesses, learning from each one things that would eventually bring him to developing the trout farm. He writes, “When I started work on Andy’s Trout Farm I didn’t have many people who thought I would make a go of it. Hazel thought for sure we would starve….I don’t believe that most of the people I dealt with in the FHA thought I would succeed. …they gave me a 40 year loan. I never missed a payment or was late on one. After 28 years I paid it off. I could have borrowed more money after the first five years, but I didn’t care to. I have been more interested in having a job and being my own boss than anything. There have been many things I’ve had to experiment with, not knowing if it would pay off or not. I have always known its not what you make working that counts the most- it’s what you can do with what you make that counts.’”

Most of Papa’s time was dedicated to hard work and innovative thinking.

There were a few things that Papa was passionate about. He was a Christian and contributed to the church in many ways. He gave both his money and his time. He believed in fun and fellowship, as well as in worship and singing. Papa was the song leader at church for many years. He was part of the Rabun County Friday night singing, and writes about the first one. It was held in 1946 in the home of John Welborn on Persimmon… and there was rarely a Friday night that he missed one, even when it was flooding! Not only did he enjoy gospel singing, but he felt that shape note singing was an art that could not die out. He was part of the group that got the North Georgia School of Gospel music started.

I think Papa was probably a pretty ruthless business man, and I know he was a hard task master. When you worked for him there was no slacking off! If he didn’t have anything else for you do he would have you empty rocks from one hole – and fill up another. He taught us the importance and value of hard work and doing a good job. He trained many a young worker on Betty’s Creek over the years. He valued the dollar because worked hard to earn it…but he was generous with it, too. He was a great gift giver! He also seemed to like gadgets and was often among the first to purchase new things that came along.Papa was able to develop a plan, research what he needed to do to make it happen, and then put it all together to become a reality. He was such a hard worker here at the Trout Farm- that it was amazing when he and Granny started going to Arizona in the winters, and he became a “retired man.” He did go about recreating with the same intensity as everything else and became a champion horseshoe pitcher. He writes about their time in Arizona, “Hazel just came back from her gambling trip to Laughlin. She is feeling good. She won $50.00 this year. We are living high on the hog now with all her gambling wins to go with my horseshoe wins. We might retire this year.

While we always knew that Papa loved us we didn’t see the affectionate and tender side of him until the last few years. Granny pampered Papa all of his life and sometimes, that really aggravated us! I really don’t think it was that he expected it, but that she wanted to do it. Then, when Granny got sick and couldn’t pamper him anymore was when his care and concern for her became more and more apparent. As much as he was a good grandfather, he really refined his skills when he became a GREAT grandfather! He seemed to mellow with time and took the time to spend with our kids. They were constantly tagging along after him. Some of his babysitting techniques were definitely outside the box!

There is a quote that says, “The measure of a man’s success must be according to his ability. The advancement he makes from the station in which he was born gives the degree of his success.” Another quote says, “If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives.” So I ask myself, what is the measure of this man, my grandfather, Andy Cope?

He came from the poorest of beginnings. He worked hard, loved his family, served his country, helped his fellow man. He left a legacy to his family of knowing the importance of loving God, caring for family and friends, working hard for what you get and not expecting hand outs, being a generous giver, taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. He recognized the beauty of God’s creation and used it to create a place for families to enjoy being together. My answer? Andy Cope left his world a better place for being the man he was and sharing with his community, his friends and his family.

To sum it up in his own words….“You got no right to take something out unless you first put something in. So shoot square, play 50-50. Don’t do much fighting to see how much you can take out. But – give a little serious and unselfish thought to what you can do to make a better community to live in, and yourself a better person.​”

Hazel “Granny” Cope

​Hazel predeceased Andy in death by 9 months, passing away on April 28, 2011.​
This is her story.

The process of dying can often seem to rob a person of the essence of who they are. In the responsibilities of care-giving we can briefly lose touch with the person we are helping, and as we gently begin to disengage to let them go- we loosen our connection.

SO, it is good to now reflect on Granny, her life and her influence. All families have their own story and I realize that most of them are in many ways similar. But they are still uniquely our own. Everyone here has or has had a grandmother and many of you would fight me that yours was better than mine. Sadly, you would be wrong.

​This is our story….and because you are part of our lives, it has also become a part of your story. The influence that Granny has had on the people we are now also reaches into your life….and on and on.

In a great movie of southern women, ‘Steel Magnolias’, I think it is Dolly Parton who says “My favorite emotion is laughter through tears.” And I agree with her (not so much on the tears part), and so I will try to share through laughter and tears.

Our story is a story of blessings, truths, and wisdom that we got from Granny- and I will share just a few of those with you today. Granny was blessed with a husband that provided for her needs throughout the years. Papa was not the most affectionate kind of man, but as Granny’s health began failing he became more and more attentive to her. During the last few weeks of her life he faithfully watched and fussed over her and made sure we all did what we should to take care of her. Our Mama and Daddy were steadfast in their care attention to Granny- and Papa and Granny had always been able to be at peace knowing that Mama is in such good hands (our Mama was diagnosed with MS at the age of 35, and has been wheelchair bound ever since.) One of Granny’s greatest desires in the last few years of her life was to have her son, Jerry, take care of her. It was a true blessing for her to have Jerry and Becky with her those last months.

Granny was the hardest working woman I have ever known. There was no task too dirty, smelly, or difficult. She would pull on her waders and help Papa drag the ponds to net out fish, shovel muck out of the raceways in the hatchery, and clean screens in the middle of a dangerous thunderstorm. She would grow your fish, clean your fish and then cook it up for you to eat. Papa would come up with grand ideas, build them and then leave them for Granny to run while he was off to develop the next project. Granny was a kind and loving grandmother, but as a boss – she was, like Papa, a hard task master. The trout farm was much more than a business, and when you were her employee all bets were off.

In her way of thinking: the customer is always right. That was the motto, and the underlying idea was: You do such a good job they have no reason to complain…but if they do, make it right so they will want to come back.

While the trout farm was the time and energy consuming force of her life, that wasn’t what defined the essence of Granny.

She was a kind and giving member of her extended family and of this community. Uncle Coyl is her only living sibling, however she loved each of them deeply, and grieved when they died- as well as when each of her nieces and nephews predeceased her in death. However, just a couple of weeks before her death we were talking about how very soon she would be with her Mom and Dad, and the rest of her family -and how wonderful that would be.

Church was important to Granny and she was a founding member of the Betty’s Creek Baptists Church. Granny and Papa were also great supporters of the Rabun County Friday night Gospel Singings, and instilled the love and knowledge of gospel music to Sonya and me. Granny and Papa spent 26 winters in Arizona during their retirement years and it didn’t take long for Granny to make friends and become an important part of their community as well. Granny was a wife that knew how to take care of her husband- three square meals a day, clothes laid out every night for the next day, always thinking ahead to what Papa would want. I am sorry to say those particular pieces of wisdom didn’t stick so well.

Because Mama has M.S.- and is limited in her ability to do a lot of things, Sonya and I were blessed to have the opportunity to have a closer relationship with our Granny, more so than most other grandmother/granddaughter relationships. Honestly, at some of those times I wouldn’t have called them blessings! But it did provide many opportunities for us to gain some wisdom. I would like to share a few of those with you now:

  • An hour spent a doctors office is well worth the visit to RED LOBSTER afterward!
  • Make all your Dr. Appointments in a town that also has a RED LOBSTER! (see 1).
  • If you have to go to the Dr. you might as well run by Hammrick’s or Wal-Mart on the way home….who knows when you might get back to town.​​​
  • If Papa is home when you get back from the Doctor, come help unload the car TOMORROW! (see 3).
  • If it is the middle of July, on a mid Friday afternoon, in downtown Atlanta, during the Olympics- and your gut says, “Do not get into that car held together with duct tape, with no air conditioner, and a driver that does not speak English in order to take your Grandmother across town for an MRI at a different doctors office……” – go with your gut.

As time went by, Sonya and I fell into the caregiver role- and Papa says we spoiled her. Gene (my husband) and Troy agreed, but supported the time we gave Granny because she loved them too. We feel we kind of created a monster! You know that sinking feeling you get when you are in the middle of an important meeting, or up to your eyeballs with people, your cell phone rings and you look down, only to see on the Caller ID —GRAN—-. Well, it could have been “ I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” It could have been ”I am stuck on the pot and can’t get off. “ It could have been, “Can you make me a doctor’s appointment?” (Meaning: I want to go to Wal-Mart and Red Lobster). Or it could have been, “We need some eggs.” I have to say that we have had some of the best laughs at Granny’s expense, and she would always end up joining in and laughing with us.

It was hard, it was demanding and honestly, at times, felt like she might just suck the very last bit of sanity we had left right out of us. But there were many gems of wisdom in that.

When we were young we watched Granny’s example of someone with the heart of a giver….a servant’s heart. When she was older we had the opportunity to grow to develop servant’ hearts within ourselves. She was quick to note that Sonya’s was more highly developed than mine.

So, we did spoil Gran, because we tried to treat her like she had treated us.

Like, Reading ‘Old Yeller’ every night for Lord knows how many years! She even bought a super sized rocking chair so that she, Sonya, Marty and I could all sit in it at the same time. Spending the night at Granny’s -which was often- meant just before bed time she would go turn on the electric blanket so it would be warm when you crawled in, and having your favorite food. Birthday celebrations were a big deal for Granny. It was important to her for the family to get together to eat and celebrate each person’s birthday. I believe it was her way of showing how glad she was we each had been born.

Most importantly, Granny was a Christian. She loved Jesus, and in the last year or so she called on him a lot. We have joked around about that, but the truth is when she felt she couldn’t take it any more, the one person that she knew could help was Jesus. In those last months it became important to Granny to know that each member of her family was saved, and when the Hospice Chaplin would ask was there anything she wanted him to pray about, her request was that her family and friends would know Jesus.

Granny wasn’t perfect. She had her ways and some of them made us nuts. We won’t dwell on those today. But the essence of Granny was unconditional love. She was selfless in that she always thought of the needs and wants of her family. It didn’t matter what you did, or how bad you messed up- Granny just loved you. She didn’t try to solve your problems, she just listened. She didn’t try to change you, she just accepted you. She made everyone feel like they were her favorite. I guess she had several favorites. And when our children came along, her love grew and stretched and covered them just as it did us. The softer, kinder, gentler parts of each of us is an extension of who Gran was to each of us.

The journey of life continues. Granny has gone on to the best part of life. She is in heaven with Jesus. We are blessed that her love continues on to our children. They each have had a unique opportunity to really know their great grandmother in a personal way…something that is rare. And she had the opportunity (and used it) to make her imprint upon their hearts that will go to yet another generation.

Hazel "Granny" Cope

A Thank You to Hazel’s Great Grand Children
also written by Paula:

Renee: I have to say I could not be more proud of you for the way you have patiently, gently and faithfully loved Granny. She loved you fully and you have given back to her, and I thank you. The gifts of love you learned from her will make you an anchor to those you love just as she was to all of us.

Maleah: You learned from Gran that when you want something, you don’t stop until you get it. We know that she was proud of your accomplishments because she carried a newspaper article about you around in her black pouch with her other important documents.

Mariah: You got your love for music from Granny and Papa. We see her compassion and care for others in the way you have a heart for helping others—she would never let anyone eat alone either.

Ashlei: It was a true gift to Gran that you were able to be here and be a part of her life again during these last few months with your sweet smile and kind words. She loved having you around.

Jeremy couldn’t be here during this time, but Granny was thrilled for a boy to finally show up to carry on the Cope name. She looked forward to his visits and keeping up with his antics.

Madison: You loved to keep Granny on her toes. She would hear that 4 wheeler fire up and start worrying until she heard you come back off the mountain. She loved to have you stop in to visit and see what was cooking.

God blessed both of these wonderful, humble souls with love, togetherness, and the undying will to push on…
May their lives, loves, obstacles and triumphs inspire you and yours for years to come!

God Bless!​
Sincerely, ​
The Cope Family