[SHELBY TOWNSHIP, MI] Archpriest Leonte Simion Copacia, Jr. fell asleep in the Lord on August 16, 2017. Known to many as Father Leo, he was 85 years old at the time of his repose.
Born on April 4, 1932 in Salem, OH to Leonte Copacia, Sr. and Elena [Buta] Copacia, immigrants from Beclean, Romania and Rosario de Sante Fe, Argentina respectively, he was a 1950 graduate of the New York Military Academy. Afterwards, he attended Ohio State University before enlisting in the US Marine Corps at the end of the Korean War. Professionally, he held various management and executive positions at Chrysler Automotive, where he worked for 34 years before retiring in 1991.
Having completed the Late Lay Vocation Study Program for the Diaconate under the auspices of the Orthodox Church in America, he was ordained to the diaconate on September 30, 1979 by His Eminence, the late Archbishop Valerian D. Trifa, and served at Saints Peter and Paul Romanian Orthodox Church, Dearborn, MI, and Saint George Romanian Orthodox Cathedral, Southfield, MI. On June 5, 1988, he was ordained to the priesthood by His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel at Saint Mary Romanian Orthodox Cathedral, Cleveland, OH, after which he was assigned Associate Priest at Southfield’s Saint George Cathedral. He also served “on loan” as an Associate Priest at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Saint Clair Shores, MI, from December 1993 through April 2001. He was installed as the first priest of the newly formed Saint Raphael of Brooklyn Mission in northwest Detroit on May 6, 2001. He was elevated to the dignity of Archpriest by the Holy Synod of Bishops on March 20, 2007.
In addition to his pastoral duties, Father Leo served as a national President of the American Romanian Orthodox Youth in 1960 and Business Manager of the SOLIA newspaper in 1963. He spent 16 years as cantor and choir director at Dearborn’s Saints Peter and Paul Church; directed, produced and broadcast the English segment of the Orthodox Radio Hour, which aired on WNZK AM across the Detroit region from 1989 until 1994; organized and directed the first Council of Orthodox Christian Churches’ Christmas Concert in 1987; founded the Archbishop Nathaniel Charity Endowment Fund to help the needy; and served as Financial Adviser and Treasurer of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America for three terms. He also served as Spiritual Advisor of the Association of the Romanian Orthodox Ladies Auxiliary of North America prior to his retirement from the active priesthood on December 31, 2009, due to heal reasons.
Father Leo is survived by his beloved wife of 62 years, Preoteasa Mary [Bogdan]; four sons, Terry [Suzanne] Copacia, Timothy [Linda] Copacia, Tod [Sharon] Copacia, and Trevor [Kimberly] Copacia; 11 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; three nephews; and one brother, Franklin [Molly] Copacia.
Visitation was at Saint George Cathedral, 18405 West Nine Mile Road, Southfield, MI at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, August 21, with the celebration of the Saracusta at 7:00 p.m. The Divine Liturgy, followed by the Funeral for a Priest, began at the cathedral at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 22. His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel presided, assisted by many area clergy. A mercy meal (pomana) followed the services. Interment was at Saint Mary Cemetery, Grass Lake, MI.
May Father Leo’s memory be eternal!