Fred Joseph Copenace

In memory of Pai-Nai-Soo-Be-Tung Fred Joseph Copenace, born on August 18, 1938, at Big Grassy First Nation. Died on Sunday, August 8, 1999.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of my husband, our father, grandfather, on Sunday, August 8, 1999 at the Rainy River Hospital.
Fred was sent to C.J. Residential School in Kenora at a tender age of 10 years old. Many times our father talked about his hardships at the residential school and how he missed his parents. He lovingly recalled his older brother Bobby who would visit with him at the residential school and then one day his brother came and told him that he would be leaving for Korea in a few days time. Our father often talked about Bobby because a few weeks later the family was told that Bobby had died in Korea. He often mentioned the sadness he felt upon hearing the news just like it was yesterday.
At the age of 14, Fred started out on his own working in logging camps to help support his parents and siblings. Fred later met his wife Lucy Kirkrude and they were married on May 30, 1960. Fred worked for Richard and Barbara Zebleckis at Swenson’s Resort for many years. He commercially fished all his life until last year. He carried on the responsibilities of being the Chief for Big Grassy River First Nation for approximately eight years. Approximately from 1974 until present he worked as a negotiator along with the late Moses Tom, and Albert Comegan Jr. on what would now be the Bridge Claim. He worked on the Land Claims settlement for over 20 years with his cousin Tony Copenace, negotiator for Onegaming and Peter and Kathy Kinew-Kelly. Fred always acknowledged and appreciated his fellow men and respected his Brothers from Onegaming, past chiefs and Councilmen and representatives for both Big Grassy and Onegaming First Nation communities. We would also like to acknowledge Don Colborne, legal advisor and friend for over 20 years. Fred was actively involved with the Big Grassy Education Authority as a Board Member. In 1975 Chief Fred and fellow councillors Gary Tuesday, Percy Tuesday and Albert Comegan were involved in the initial struggles and challenges in obtaining funding for what will now be our new school. In 1983, Chief Fred and councilmen at that time held their first annual pow wow and wished to acknowledge those high school students at that time who made the dream possible by bringing back the pow wow to our community.
Fred enjoyed going to pow wows, hunting, fishing, trapping, and sharing stories of his forefathers. Fred attended the Big Grassy Pow Wow the day before his passing and at the grounds he touched his heart and told us in Ojibway he was so proud and humbled for everyone and all they did.
Fred leaves behind his loving wife Lucy, his children, Raymond, Josephine and husband Joseph, Dennis and wife Karilyn, Curtis, Lucille and husband Steve, Terry and girlfriend Jana.
Fred leaves behind his grandchildren, Peter, Tanya, Amanda, Dennis Jr., Tashena, Nathan, Tristin, MaryLou, Stacey and Cody.
Fred leaves behind his sisters Melvina Copenace, Rosemary Copenace, and brothers Alvin Copenace, Ernest Copenace and numerous nieces and nephews and the family at this time wishes to acknowledge Lillian West of Winnipeg who recently adopted him as her older brother.
Fred was predeceased by his older brother Bobby Copenace who was killed in action on May 3, 1953 during the Korean War. He was predeceased by his sister Virginia Copenace, brothers Bobby, Jimmy, Daniel, William, Roddy and Richard and parents Jane and Benjamin Copenace.
Pai-Nai-Soo-Be-Tung will be sadly missed by his wife and children, grandchildren, relatives and friends. He was a generous man who respected and fought for his people in our beliefs, values and traditions passed on to him by his forefathers, grandmothers, youth and elders.
Enclosed is a message written by family members in memory of Pai-Nai-Soo-Be-Tung.
Gitchii-Manitou
Life is precious and everlasting life is the greatest gift to receive.
Guide us in our life’s journey and to acknowledge our ancestors, our forefathers, grandmothers the special gifts that each of us has been given by them.
Take mercy on us because we are small and pitiful.
Nurture us with your wisdom, love and visions that we will continue to reclaim our given culture, language and beliefs and humbly walk our chosen paths.
Please welcome our loved one into your midst.
We will be strong for my husband, our father, grandfather because we know that he is free from pain and suffering.
Meegwetch Gitchii-Manitou,
Kee-Shoo-Way-Nee-Me-Go (we love and care about you) Pai-Nai-Soo-Be-Tung.
Robin and Cathleen Green officiated the funeral services held on Thursday, August 12, 1999 at the Big Grassy Band Hall. Traditional burial was held at the Big Grassy Cemetery. Pallbearers were Johnny Comegan, Tommy Copenace, Timothy Copenace, John Copenace, Kenny Kakeeway and Ross Tuesday.
The family wishes to take this time to thank everyone for their support in our loss.

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