Burdell Coplan

January 13, 1928 - November 8, 2012

Visitation: Visitation will be Sunday from 2 – 8:00 p.m. at Canton Lutheran Church. Family will greet visitors from 5 – 7:00 p.m. A prayer service will begin at 7:00 p.m

Service: Funeral services will be at 10:00 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12, at Canton Lutheran Church, with burial at Forest Hill Cemetery.









           Burdell Joseph Coplan, age 84, passed away on Thursday, November 8, 2012 at Sanford Canton-Inwood Hospital, following a strong and courageous battle with cancer as Jesus took him home to be by his side. Funeral services will be at 10:00 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12, at Canton Lutheran Church, with burial at Forest Hill Cemetery.  Visitation will be Sunday from 2 – 8:00 p.m. at Canton Lutheran Church.  Family will greet visitors from 5 – 7:00 p.m.  A prayer service will begin at 7:00 p.m.

            Burdell was born January 13, 1928 in Watertown, SD, to Joseph and Ella (David) Coplan.  He graduated from Watertown High School in 1946.  Burdell proudly served his country during both WWII and the Korean War.  While serving, he played football for the US Army. He played in the Rice Bowl game in Yokohama, Japan on New Year’s Day in 1947.  Following his discharge, he attended USD at Vermillion, SD, graduating in 1952.  While at USD, he played football for the Coyotes, helping win the 1951 North Central Conference Title.  He was named to the USD 1950’s team of the decade as a defensive back.

            Burdell was united in marriage to Betty Lou Berg on June 8, 1952.  They moved to Canton in 1955, where ‘Cop’ taught and coached for 35 years.  He retired in 1990.  During his career he coached football, basketball, track, and served as Athletic Director. His successful football coaching career resulted in: a record of 228 wins, 81 losses, 9 ties, seven undefeated seasons, 15 conference championships, and winning the Class 11A State Championship in 1986.  He received many coaching awards which included: National High School Football Coach of the Year, 4 time National Regional High School Football Coach of the Year, the S.D. High School Athletic Association Distinguished Service Award, and was the S.D. Coach of the Year 11 times.  Coach was inducted into many hall of fames, including: National High School Coaches Hall of Fame, S.D. High School Coaches Hall of Fame, USD Hall of Fame, S.D. Football Coaches Hall of Fame, S.D. Athletic Directors Hall of Fame, Watertown High School Athletic Hall of Fame, S.D. Sports Hall of Fame, SDIAAA Hall of Fame, and was named to the S.D. High School Coaches Association’s Hall of Excellence. In 1995, the athletic complex at Canton was named Coplan Field in his honor.

            Burdell and his wife, Betty, started the local chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes holding meetings in their home.  He was a member of Canton Lutheran Church and Canton Lion’s Club.  He served as a Lincoln County Commissioner for 16 years and was a probation officer for many years.  He and Betty owned and operated the Canton Greenhouse from 1980 to 1990.  Cop was an avid hunter since age 12.  He missed the opening of pheasant season 4 years, three times while in Korea and this past opening.  He regularly attended many local athletic games and events since his retirement.  Coach has remained in close contact with many of his former players and fellow coaches.  He was known for his good sense of humor, outstanding memory, his love of telling stories and reminiscing about the old days. He enjoyed working and helping on the farm. He was a devoted grandpa and loved spending time with his grandkids.

            Those grateful for having shared his life are: his wife of 60 years, Betty; two daughters- Elizabeth Slack of Chippewa Falls, WI and Patty Kroger of Canton, SD; two grandchildren- Lindsey Woodford and Madeline Kroger; great-grandson, Hunter Woodford; brother, Arlo (Nancy) Coplan of Greendale, WI; along with numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, and many dear friends.

           He was preceded in death by his parents, sister Maythel Dahl, brother Elwood Coplan, and grandson Seth Kroger.

            In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Canton Booster Club in Burdell’s honor.

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23 messages have been left

  1. Shirley D. Peterson on November 8, 2012 said:

    Betty, Patty and Liz:

    So sorry to hear of your loss, my sympathy and prayers are with you. God Bless.


  2. becky jeffers on November 8, 2012 said:

    Burdell will be greatly missed. He was a wonderful man, I loved talking to him in the halls of the hosp. He was full of good advice and loved talk.

  3. Lori Fossum McCormick on November 8, 2012 said:

    Although I never had the pleasure of having Mr Coplan as a teacher or coach, his presence and encouaging words from the stands at so many sporting events will never be forgotten. He touched more lives than he ever realized and he will be missed dearly. Thank you, Mr Coplan, for sharing your life with so many kids, parents, athletes, and coaches!
    Matt & Lori McCormick & family

  4. Amy Roseland on November 8, 2012 said:

    Patty, Liz, Maddie and Lindsey,
    My thoughts and prayers are with you all as you grieve the loss of a great man. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to get to know him. His smile will be missed greatly. I enjoyed being able to talk baseball with him. He and Seth are smiling down on you all now, and they are together again. Hugs to you all!

  5. Renee Reeves on November 9, 2012 said:

    What wonderful memories….With deepest sympathy.

  6. Leah and Terry Feay on November 9, 2012 said:

    Our sympathies to family and friends of which there are many, many. Our son played for “Cop” and we enjoyed all the games and watching “Cop” run his team in games and practice. Keep all those memories and enjoy them.

  7. Jon Sogn on November 9, 2012 said:

    “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:21.

    Well done Coach. Well done.

  8. Lynda Johnson on November 9, 2012 said:

    Betty, Liz and Patty and families,

    May God comfort you and wrap you in his arms during this difficult time. Coach was a wonderful person and teacher, I have many great memories of high school with him. He touched many lives and will be deeply missed by all who had the opportunity to know him. God bless you all.

  9. Cindi Ellison on November 9, 2012 said:

    My thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. I have great memories of Burdell as a teacher and as a coach. He was a very good man and leaves a wonderful legacy of many lives touched.

  10. `Neil Veenis on November 9, 2012 said:

    So sorry to hear of “cops” passing. I have always said that it was an honor to play for him and I learned many valuable life lessons from him. The few times that I ran into him over the years were always filled with discussions of football. He never forgot any of his players. He will truly be missed and you have my sincere condolences.May he rest in peace.

  11. Gene & Alice Ahlquist on November 9, 2012 said:

    Betty, Liz, Patti & Families,
    It saddens me to hear of the loss of your husband, father, grandfather. Your family has always had a special place in my heart. Please know you are in our prayers. Although I cannot be there to say a final goodbye to Burdell, maybe you will do so for me. God bless you all, Alice

  12. Pauline Posda on November 9, 2012 said:

    Elizabeth, Lindsey, and Hunter-May you always reflect on his life with fond memories, and may the strength of who he was carry you through, and may God grant you the comfort you need in the coming weeks and months. My thoughts and prayers go with you. Pauline

  13. Donald Bogue on November 10, 2012 said:

    My deepest sympathies are with you. I certainly appreciate all that Burdell Coplan did for me as my football coach and my speech teacher when I attended Canton High School. He taught me how important it was to give your best on your every endeavor. I know I am a better person because of what he urged me to do as my coach and as my teacher.
    Don Bogue

  14. Drew Johnson on November 10, 2012 said:

    Mr. Coplan was one of the people in my life that I always remember fondly. He was a great coach and a great model for teenage boys to follow. He started us all on the road to manhood. I will miss him, and I will always remember him.

    Drew Johnson (Class of 1957)

  15. Bob & Evelyn (Helgeson) Pickert on November 10, 2012 said:

    Our love and sympathy to all of you. Burdell has been a part of our family memories for as long as we can remember. Thanks for sharing him with all of us!

  16. Nancy Natterstad-Frear on November 10, 2012 said:

    Liz and family,
    Thinking of you all during this difficult time. May you find comfort in memories and peace knowing that your Dad is Home. Sending hugs and prayers…

    Nancy, Ken, & Peyton

  17. Dee Messerli on November 11, 2012 said:

    Betty, Liz, Patty, and other family members: I will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Someone once wrote this to me, when mom died and I think it brought some comfort, so I will share it with you at this time:

    “Death is not the extinguishment of light, it is the turning off of the lamp, for the morning has come.”

    I had so much respect for Burdell, and he was always good to me. You had a wonderful husband and father ….my sympathies.
    Dee Messerli

  18. Ken Wight on November 11, 2012 said:

    Betty and family…..grew up with Cop…from elementary,junior and senior high at WHS…a super friend..through out his career he has always been the supreme example of excellence….as an athlete,teacher,coach and father….Betty..keep the great memories…as I do!

  19. Tanna, Todd and Zack Gries on November 11, 2012 said:

    Deepest sympathies to the family of Mr. Coplan. He was a man to be respected. I had Burdell for a speech teacher and he had the hardest time remembering/pronouncing my name correctly….I went through most of the class known as “Tammy”….it was okay, he wasn’t the only one. I am sorry for your loss and pray peace be with you. Tanna Hoover Gries

  20. Gary Clark on November 12, 2012 said:

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Coach Coplan was a wonderful man and a great inspiration for all of us who played for him. We will miss him.

  21. George and Lynda Lee on November 12, 2012 said:

    Dear Patty and family,
    We are so sorry to hear about your father’s death. It is never easy to have a parent die. But all the loving and happy memories are so comforting to remember your dad.
    What a most difficult year it has been for you and your family. May the love and support of family and friends help you through this.
    God bless you.
    George and Lynda Lee

  22. Greg Eiesland on November 14, 2012 said:

    To the family of Burdell Coplan:

    I played for coach Coplan’s varsity football teams during the 1961, 1962 and 1963 seasons. We were undefeated in two of those seasons.

    I went to country school through 8th grade. When I came to Canton High School, I had never been to a football game. I could run pretty fast so I was made into a running back. On the first day the coaches told me I would be on offense and I didn’t know what that meant. Over the years coach Coplan taught me the game and I ended up starting 19 games for the C-Hawks.

    I deeply respected coach Coplan. He stressed discipline on the football field and in our personal behavior. He did not allow swearing by the team or the coaching staff. When I see the behavior today of some of the high school and college coaches, they could take a few lessons from coach Coplan. I also remember him oftentimes doing pushups with us before practice. We didn’t have a lot of plays but he would drill us on those plays until we could execute them to near perfection.

    I learned from coach Coplan that you set team goals and personal goals. He expected maximum effort. Because he expected that type of effort, we gave that type of effort.

    I remember the speech he gave in the locker room in 1963 after we had finished an undefeated season to be crowned state champions. He told us that when we left that locker room that night we were state champions. The coaches, our parents and the town expected us to act like true champions when we were off the field. He told us not to do anything that would in any way tarnish the championship season we worked so hard to attain. He told us we were role models for every younger kid in town and that we shouldn’t destroy it. We took him seriously.

    Even though I moved across the state, I had numerous occasions to visit with coach Coplan over the years. His football memory was amazing. Forty years after we played, he could bring up some play in the Vermillion, Hawarden or Brandon Valley game that was the turning point in a victory. When one thinks of over the 300 games that he coached, that was amazing that he could remember individual plays over the years.

    Coach Coplan left a good mark on all of the students that he coached. I know he was a positive influence in my life.

    Greg Eiesland
    Rapid City

  23. Shaleen (Beard) Allen on December 25, 2012 said:

    I went to Canton HS and knew Coach Coplan well. However, one moment stick out for me. My son, Declan who was 4 at the time, and I were at the Canton Clinic. Coach was there in the waiting room and Declan was drawn to him. Coach said Declan was one of the best built football players he had ever seen. Declan asked, “Do you know how to play football?” Coach smiled and said, “Yes sir, I do.” Declan smiled from ear to ear. He and coach talked football for about 20 minutes. When we left the clinic, Declan said, “Momma, that man was really smart and pretty cool.” I said, “You have no idea, Declan.”

    Coach made Declan feel like he was the most important kid ever. I hope when Declan is older he will be able to appreciate the moment in time he had with such a wonderful man.