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Sgt Preston Copeland
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Birth: Nov. 12, 1930
Death: Dec. 24, 1988
New Jersey, USA

A Season Of Tragedy For Family
December 24, 1988|By Laurie Hollman and Dwight Ott, Inquirer Staff Writers

Army Sgt. Timothy Copeland had spent Wednesday in the hospital worrying about his gravely ill father and waiting for his sister Dedera to come home. It was almost Christmas, but fear for their father, not celebration, was bringing the family back to Willingboro.

Later that night, in his parents' house, Copeland idly flipped on the TV set. Anything to pass the time.

"That's when I knew," he recalled brokenly yesterday. "I heard the words: Crash. Plane. West Germany. I had made that flight myself nine times back and forth to Germany, and I knew it was my sister. I just knew."

And so he did: Air Force Sgt. Dedera Lynn Woods, 27, her husband, Joseph N., 29, and their two children, Joseph Jr., 2 1/2, and Chelsea, 10 months, perished Wednesday in the fiery explosion of Pan Am Flight 103.

Yesterday in Willingboro, the people who had waited for Dedera to come home, so that she and the other Copeland siblings could be with their ailing father, mourned and remembered the sweet, smiling woman they had known.

In Tupelo, Miss., where Joe Woods had been reared, there also was mourning, remembering - and shock. "I didn't know they were coming home," said Brenda Woods, Joseph Woods' only sister.

And for both families, there were reams of unanswered questions. Numbly, Rose Copeland listened to speculation that the jumbo jet carrying her daughter had been sabotaged, and that some people had been warned to expect a threat.

"The hurting part," she said, "is that they knew but didn't tell anyone."

For the Copelands - Rose, her son, Timothy, and her younger daughter, Patricia Reed - the deaths of Dedera and her family seemed like some sort of horrible cosmic joke, the hellacious cap to a hellacious period of family life.

In August, Preston Copeland, Dedera's father, became ill with leukemia. Then, in rapid succession, his brother died. Preston Copeland had a relapse, and his mother died. Friends of the family said the elder Copeland, 58, was now in a coma at Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center in Camden, but the hospital refused to comment at the family's request.

It was with their father uppermost in their minds, Timothy Copeland said, that he had booked a flight from his home at California's Fort Ord. Patricia Reed was leaving Alabama for a visit. And Dedera was on her way from Sembach Air Force Base in West Germany, where she was stationed with the 66th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Joe was a civilian working on base. 
Family links: 
  Dedera Lynn Copeland Woods (1961 - 1988)*
*Calculated relationship
Brig. Gen. Wm. C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Burlington County
New Jersey, USA
Plot: KN 763B
Created by: ksimmer
Record added: Aug 08, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 74632741
Sgt Preston Copeland
Added by: ksimmer
Sgt Preston Copeland
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Kat
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