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Published: Friday, 5/29/2009

Teacher got doctorate while battling ALS

Beverly A. Copper-Butler, a teacher in the same East Toledo elementary school for most of her career who received a doctorate in education though bed-bound, died Tuesday in St. Elizabeth Health Center, Youngstown.

Her age was not reported.

She retired in 2003 from Garfield Elementary School after she learned she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative condition often called Lou Gehrig's disease.

She lost the use of her arms and had respiratory failure, her sister, Pam Parrish, said. Gradually, she couldn't use her legs and had difficulty speaking.

She moved to a Boardman, Ohio, nursing home to be close to her sister and mother, Anne Copper. She dictated her dissertation to her mother and defended it via a special telephone sent her by the ALS Association.

She received her doctorate in 2005 from Walden University, and last year, her dissertation, Parental Participation in Education, was published.

"Education was her passion," her sister said.

Jewel Minarcin, a longtime colleague at Garfield Elementary, said: "This disease never stopped her from living."

Mrs. Copper-Butler was a graduate of her hometown high school in Plainfield, N.J. She received a bachelor's degree from what was then Findlay College.

Her first teaching job in the early 1970s was at Whittier Elementary School in Toledo. She was assigned to Garfield the next year and stayed, teaching second through fifth graders.

"She was a different type teacher than I was," said her mother, who taught adult education and, later, first grade. "I believe in the old-school method, and she just believed that she would constantly search [for] and meet every child's needs on a personal level. When I was teaching, she was my mentor. She knew so much about it."

Mrs. Copper-Butler had master's and specialist's degrees from the University of Toledo. But an administrator's office was not for her.

"Her heart was in the classroom," Mrs. Minarcin said. "Bev developed so many lasting relationships with so many of her students and their families."

She was a former member of St. Patrick of Heatherdowns parish.

Surviving are her son, Stephen Copper-Butler; mother, Anne Copper; sister, Pam Parrish, and brother, Derrick "TC" Copper.

Visitation will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today in the Higgins-Reardon Funeral Homes' Boardman-Canfield Chapel, Canfield, Ohio. Services will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow in St. Luke Church, Boardman, Ohio, where visitation will begin at 9 a.m.

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