Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Farewell, Mr. Copeland

Al Copeland was put to rest yesterday. Along with a display of his larger than life toys : nine cars, eight motorcycles, a sport-utility vehicle and a dune buggy all parked in a semicircle. A motorcycle was at the gate, and Copeland's outsize speedboat, with tongues of flame on each side, was nearby.

Here's a video

"Al did everything in life big," said television anchor Eric Paulsen, a friend. "He's going out big."

At the cemetery, where about 300 friends and relatives brandished small black-and-white-checked finish-line flags.

His Obit in the Times Pic reveals some interesting facts about Mr. Copeland, such as

his secret Santa program that went on for a number of years. "I want to give 1,000 children a real Christmas," he said. "Santa and his elf should ring the doorbell after dark on Christmas Eve," he specified, "They must have a sack of presents, wrapped and labeled by name-a big gift and some small ones and a stocking for each child. The elf must have a camera, to take two photographs. One for the family and one for me." That meant more than 3,000 gifts, 1,000 Christmas stockings, cameras, elves, and Santas complete with costumes. He inspected every gift, discarding some as not big enough, exciting, or special. An entire floor at Popeyes headquarters was dedicated to a massive corporate "wrap-a-thon" between Thanksgiving and the week before Christmas. The Knights of Columbus and Knights of Peter Claver identified the families by Catholic Parish, and provided a list of names, ages, addresses, and telephone numbers to call the families in advance. Al refused media coverage for the event.

After the famous war of words with author Anne Rice, he threw garlic from his converted boat during the Mardi Gras parades.

....every time one of his grandchildren was born, Al would bring Popeyes chicken to the entire floor of the hospital. Even when he was ill himself, the nurses got chicken or some other extravagant meal.

Founder of the Popeye's Fried Chicken chain , Copelands of New Orleans Creole Restaurants, Copeland's story was one of "rags to riches". In his obituary from the Washington Post, some "high points" of his life are revisited.

The best part of his funeral - in my opinion - was this:

At New Orleans funerals, jazz bands always end with something upbeat.

This time, the selection was "Love That Chicken from Popeyes."

Another New Orleans character passes on.

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