She mowed the lawn in high heels!

Joan Copeland in Cubs

Joan Copeland in Cuba

We LOVE interesting people!

Joan Copeland was one of a kind. She was a complete stranger to Views from the Edge before Steve Shoemaker read the unique obituary the led us to post The Foster Child who Succeeded at Fostering.  Family members caught eye of the posting and sent comments worth sharing.  The bolded print is added for those who don’t read entire blog posts! -:)

First family comment: I’m her granddaughter…. She was amazing… Growing up she kept me smiling and giggling…she was a free soul… Cubans and Martinis…when I would stay the night she used to pour me ginger ale in a fancy glass cup so we could have woman time lol she never let her past define her…And her family was her life…Sophie her cat lol…meanest thang ever…but she loved her….I’m glad you all enjoyed reading the smallest excerpt of her life…if only you knew the stories of Cuba…her first tattoo at age 75….her passion for dancing…how dolled up she loved to get…my granny was a true diva…an amazing woman….inside and out…- Seylon

Views from the Edge replies: Seylon, WHAT AN UNEXPECTED TREAT to hear from you. I never know who reads the blog, so to hear from you means a lot. Please say more about the Cuban references. Was she Cuban? Had she spent time in Cuba? Smoked Cuban cigars, drank Cuban rum?

At the helm on suitor's boat on the way to Cuba..

At the helm on suitor’s boat on the way to Cuba..

Seylon responds: I googled her name just to see if old real estate photos would pop up and stumbled across your blog. I called my mom she thought it was pretty cool. My grandma was Romanian….but she loved Cuba…she traveled there twice on a friend’s sailboat….I believe ’92 was either her first trip or second…I told her if they ever dropped the embargo and allow all the US citizens not being able to travel there I would take her there on vacation again. 🙂 I wish I could post pictures for you. I have plenty of them from when she was there. [NOTE: the photos on this page were sent later.]

She used to talk about the dolphins that would swim along the sailboat. Her first tattoo the family took her to get was of Dolphins and the word Cuba 🙂 She was 75. She would talk about how she brought a roll of shiny new pennies to give out to the kids there because she knew the country was poor and she thought it would be a cool gift to them. I guess a little boy she had met was not thrilled with the pennies…she used to say he expected more money then her little pennies.

Joan Coleman cigar

Joan Copeland smoking Cuban something or other

But she also loved cigars and used to smoke them. I am in the military and tried getting her cigars made from every place I’ve been…my last trip I got her a while box of Cubans…I told her we could crack the box open once I had my baby. She laughed, she said she didn’t even know if she could smoke one anymore. She mostly collected the boxes…. she collected a lot of stuff… antiques, paintings, everything 🙂 It’s crazy that her obituary got all the way to Minnesota. It’s pretty neat how someone who means so much to you can be a small part of a stranger’s life.

Another granddaugher responds: Hi, I am her oldest granddaughter, Summer. My gran would have loved this!! My gran never left her house without looking like a movie star from her big up-do to her fur coats. She went to the top of a mountain on a dirt bike and mowed the yard in heals. Always had a cocktail and ready for some fun. We always had a project to do together from making jewelry, beading necklaces, sorting jewelry or gemstones. We even made picture frames with jewelry. My mom and I took her to get her tattoo. All three of us got one that day. Three generations getting a tattoo coolest thing ever.

Great grandma singing "Itsy bits spider" to Seylon's newborn child.

Great grandma singing “Itsy bits spider” to Seylon’s newborn child.

She loved her family more than anything else. She wrote notes on everything she ever gave me. She made a tote box for all her grandkids and when I opened mine it has every Christmas card, valentine , letter, picture I drew and my baby clothes. She kept everything I ever gave her my whole life was in this box. She treasured me as much as I did her. Thank you for taking the time to write about my amazing grandma.

Joan’s oldest daughter comments: Hi Gordon. This is Joan’s oldest daughter, Rebecca. My niece, Seylon, called her mother from Germany this afternoon just as my sis and I were sorting thru “the goods.” (There’s a packed house.) I cried as she read your column to us. I’ll have you know that I went all out when writing the obituary because my mother did not want a funeral. She said, “I don’t want a bunch of people strolling by my dead body pretending that they liked me. I know who my friends are.” To be led to your column was an amazing stroke of synchronicity, and I’m sure my mother would think you did right by her. My mother was not Cuban. Her father was a Romanian immigrant who came here as a child. Her mother was from Illinois, and we don’t know much more because the family split up when Joan was young.

Joan Copeland on suitor's yacht sailing illegally to Cuba.

Joan Copeland on suitor’s yacht sailing illegally to Cuba.

Her sailing trips to Cuba were with one of the prospects she finally told to go away. She was in her mid-60’s at the time, and wouldn’t hesitate to smoke a good cigar w/ you.

Here’s just one more little tidbit I thought you might like. My mother enjoyed her martinis and for years she collected antique pewter. At my sister’s suggestion, we had her ashes put into a pewter cocktail shaker from her collection. When Seylon gets to come home on leave in July, we will scatter Joan’s ashes over her mother’s grave as per her wishes. – Rebecca.

I wish we were all that interesting!

Cuba: The Embargo Wall

“SOMETHING there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”

Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

Two human beings passed abreast through a wall yesterday: the invisible wall between the U.S. and Cuba.

The wall was built by human hands. It’s coming down by human hands. Like the Berlin Wall and “the Iron Curtain” that went up during the Cold War between the East and West.

Here in the States the story was that the wall and the curtain had gone up to keep people in. And that’s what I thought until the summer of 1966 while living “behind” the wall with the Schulz family in Bratislava as The Experiment in International Living’s Chicago Ambassador to Czechoslovakia.

A visitor from the West was immediately struck by the absence of bill boards. There were no advertisements like in Chicago. Bratislava struck me at first glance as a gray place, a dull place, a colorless place, a depressing place. But depression and beauty are in the eye of the beholder.

“The wall isn’t there to keep us in,” said my hosts at the third floor walk-up apartment at #7 Legionarska Street. “It’s there to keep you OUT.” Their story was altogether different. They were trying to keep Western materialism, Western greed and commercialism on the other side of the wall.

They built the wall, they said, to make possible the building of a new character: a more generous, less predatory, more social community beyond the old disparities of wealth and poverty.

“Today Robert Fronts-Diaz, who owns a Twin Cities translation and communications business, says the U.S. embargo was ‘an opportunity for Cuba to build character… Since I was a little kid, I wanted the Cuban embargo to be lifted,’ Fonts-Diaz said, his voice breaking with emotion. ‘I am very deeply touched that my request has been fulfilled,’” [“For state’s Cuban, change was a long time coming,” StarTribune, Dec. 18, 2014]

“SOMETHING there is that doesn’t love a wall….” In the end, over time, they all come down

[Eternity] “spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”