Elizabeth Tanis Copelan
“Welcome to Madison” was Bette Copelan’s mission in serving the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce as Information Specialist for 14 years until her retirement in December of 2008. Bette has been an active member of the Madison community since she moved from Decatur in the fall of 1993.
Nellie Elizabeth Tanis Copelan, 85, died January 16, 2009 following open-heart surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta. She was born May 21, 1923 to the Rev. and Mrs. John Christian Tanis in Frenchtown, New Jersey. Following her marriage in 1946, Bette and her family moved south to Georgia in 1952. She was preceded in death by her husband, Charles Gilpin Copelan, who died in 1980, by her brother, John C. Tanis, Jr., and her younger sister, Irene Tanis Keigler.
Bette lived her childhood in New Jersey with her four siblings and spent most summers at the Methodist Campground of Ocean Grove. During the war years she attended Beaver College in Philadelphia where she graduated with a BS in Home Economics in 1945.
She pursued a teaching career in Great Bridge, NJ then in Acworth and Atlanta until she retired in 1988 from the Adult Education Program at Atlanta Area Tech. She never actually ceased teaching, however, and in the spring of 2008 participated in a special art program at the Crossroads School in Madison. As a lifelong supporter of the arts, she volunteered for the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center and the Arts Connection in Atlanta in addition to working as a docent at the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art in Buckhead.
Bette’s several years in The Magnolia Garden Club were not strictly an active “planting with a passion” membership. Rather, the Garden Club helped her to enhance her penchant for color and design through flowers. This ultimately led to the expansion of her existing Atlanta company, Bette Copelan Designs, shifting the focus from bridal and textile restoration to creation of hand-made, custom jewelry.
In this last business expansion, she used raw materials inherited from her sister and donated by her brother, James, an acknowledged expert in antiquities, and built on the existing foundation to enlarge an already successful business. She exhibited and sold her one-of-a kind creations at festivals and events throughout the southeast.
As the senior member of “The Bookies,” Bette eagerly engaged in her book club as a way to connect with and be inspired by younger women who kept her challenged, and opened her mind to new ideas. Staying on the move was also very important to Bette, and she traveled as a member of Madison’s “Prime Timers” on many wonderful trips both in the U.S. and abroad.
In her death, Bette leaves behind her brothers, Rev. Dr. James R. Tanis, and Frederick J. Tanis and wife Betty, daughters Marguerite G. Copelan, Kathleen C. Nimmo (Mrs. James) and Patricia C. Baker (Mrs. Arch), five very close grandchildren, Troy and Travis Nimmo, Katie Long and Charles and Eliese Baker, whom she had selected as her pallbearers. She also leaves five great-grandchildren, as well as a number of very close nieces and nephews.
Officiating at her January 20th memorial service at the Madison Presbyterian Church, where Bette was a member, were the Rev. Coile Estes, Interim Pastor, and Bette’s son-in-law the Rev. Arch Baker. Rev. Estes eulogized Bette as “A lady who knew her own mind and chose her own path even to life’s end”. Psalm 23 verse 4 was truly in her heart and mind - Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Interment was in the Copelan family plot at the Siloam Cemetery; A. E. Carter Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
In lieu of flowers the family has requested that donations be made to one of Bette’s cherished associations, the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art, located near Madison at 4200 Bethany Rd. Buckhead, Georgia 30625.