Teresa M. “Terri” Kopel, 91, of Spencer, IA, died at St. Luke Lutheran Home just after midnight on October 9, 2023 after a brief illness. She was the best daughter, sister, wife, mother, and grandmother one could ever hope to have.
Teresa Magdalena Rohner was born November 21, 1931 in Iowa City IA, the youngest of the seven children of Dr. Frank J. and Filomena Ester (Plaza Monreal) Rohner.
She attended St Patrick’s School in Iowa City, graduating as salutatorian of her class. She attended Marycrest College for a time, before returning to Iowa City to attend nursing school at Mercy Hospital. She later completed her education at Clarke College in Dubuque, graduating with her BA degree in English Literature.
Teresa lived with her mother and worked as an orthopedics nurse until she married. She met Eldon Anthony Kopel of Marshalltown IA in June 1958 at the Newman Center in Iowa City, and after a brief engagement they married at St. Patrick’s in Iowa City on December 27, 1958. Always known as Teresa to her family, Eldon nicknamed her Terri, a name that stuck for the rest of her life. They lost no time in starting a family, with the first 2 children born in January and December of 1960, and the youngest of seven born in July 1968. They were both lifelong Catholics, and their faith was an integral part of their marriage and parenting.
Eldon’s career with the Social Security Administration took him to Ft. Dodge and Creston IA, Hutchinson KS and Hannibal MO before settling in Spencer IA on October 31, 1974. Terri always supported him, settling the family in and making yet another home while he was at the office. Terri worked briefly teaching nursing classes in Hutchinson but didn’t work outside the home again until most of the children were out of high school. She worked in the day care at the Spencer YMCA, then worked for a number of years as a receptionist in the emergency department at Spencer Hospital. She was a member of Sacred Heart Parish, the Altar Society and Catholic Daughters.
Terri always tried to make birthdays and Christmas special, decorating elaborate cakes at her children’s request. She loved music and singing from an early age,
learning to play the piano and dancing to the radio while still living at home. She sang in the choir at Mass, loved to listen to American standards and classical music, and went to all the music activities at St. Luke’s. She passed her love of garage sales, thrift stores and finding bargains to her children. She loved birds, especially cardinals and hummingbirds, and flowers – some favorites were roses, tulips, and carnations. She always enjoyed getting her hair done, one of the few things she did for herself rather than her family.
At the age of 60 Terri was diagnosed with macular degeneration, like several of her siblings before her. As it got worse, she lost her central vision, making jigsaw puzzles, reading, and seeing the faces of her loved ones much more difficult. She got frustrated, but never angry, bitter or despondent. She accepted her vision loss with grace, strength and humor. Always a team, Eldon was her eyes as her vision worsened, and she helped him when his memory failed.
She really blossomed when they moved to The Highlands. No longer isolated by her poor vision and inability to drive, she threw herself into meeting for coffee and playing cards with the other women. After they moved to St. Luke’s, she always mentioned how fortunate she was to have so many different activities available and threw herself into all of them: the aforementioned music, monthly Mass, manicures, crafts, bingo and games, and bus trips.
Terri and Eldon are together again, as they were always meant to be, holding hands and dancing. She can clearly see the beauty around her, as well as the faces of those she loved: husband Eldon, daughter Marie, her parents, siblings and good friends. She is enjoying all the chocolate she wants, washed down with a big cup of coffee. Her family will forever be grateful for her unwavering love and support and will miss her until we meet again!
Terri is survived by her sister Filomena “Fil” Winegardner; daughters Teresa Kopel (Thomas Smith), Cecilia Kopel Magalhães (Mariano Magalhães), Barbara “Barb” Abney (Andrew) and Joni Cole (Jeffrey “Jeff”); sons Daniel “Dan” Kopel (Debbie) and David Kopel (Claudia); grandchildren Heather DuBois (Jared Grow), Missy Roland (David “Dave”), Christopher “Chris” Kopel (Maddie), Nicole “Nikki” Kopel, Anthony James “A.J.” Kopel, Gabriela “Bela” Magalhães (Isaac Medina), Juliana “Mina” Magalhães-Corteletti (Bruno), Sofia Magalhães, Anna Miller (Eric), and Ethan Abney (Grace); great-grandchildren Trevor Streuli (Chelsea), Kaelob Streuli,
Tanner Orwig, Alexis “Lexi” Roland, Julian Miller, and Oliver Abney; great-great-grandchildren Kash Glienke, Kacyn Streuli, and Hunter Orwig; and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her husband Eldon Anthony Kopel; parents Dr. Frank J and Filomena E Rohner; sister Mary Glaser (Donald); brothers Frank James “Jim” Rohner (Dorothy), Edward Jilberto “Ed” Rohner, John Rodolfo Rohner (Dorothy), and William Leonardo “Bill” Rohner (Mary); and daughter Marie Kopel.
Terri was cremated at her own request. Warner Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.
Memorial contributions may be sent to Sacred Heart Church, PO Box 817, Spencer IA 51301, or by visiting spencersacredheart.com. Memorial contributions may also be made to the Center for Macular Degeneration Research Fund at the University of Iowa. Checks payable to The University of Iowa Foundation may be sent to University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, The University of Iowa Foundation, PO Box 4550, Iowa City IA 52244-4550, or visit GiveToIowa.org/eye