“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” -Helen Keller
This quote seems applicable to the lives of both Tim and Paula Cope. Both of them had their share of adversities that they dealt with and overcame to become the successful people they are today.
I was impressed by their candor and their willingness to share those chapters in their lives that were difficult. After sitting on the Temple Board with Tim and working very briefly with Paula, I got to know them and appreciate their specialness and their ability to connect so ably with people of all ages. Fundamentally they are good, fun, honest and reliable people who contribute unselfishly to their community.
Being the parents of three accomplished adult children (Collin, Evan, and Lindsey) and knowing that they had a set of twins, I was curious what is was like to raise such a family. Here’s what they said, “So many stories… Exhausting and very rewarding. It truly takes a village. It became clear to us that genetics is stronger than environment with their personality traits and interests. You also have to keep your first child front and center because everyone fawns over the twins. We made a special effort to always change up the family dynamic, because there was a natural tendency to keep Collin alone and the twins together or pair up the boys and keep Lindsey alone. To combat that, we often paired Lindsey with Collin and they are just as close today as any combination of the three children. We also took each child alone for a weekend with one parent, which gave us time to focus on one child at a time.”
Our three children would tell you that we have a very funny, close-knit, happy family. Our favorite activity of all, as children and now as adults, is What the Heck Night (WTHN). Tim and Collin invented it. It’s when kids get to rule and you have to do anything as long as it’s not unsafe or illegal. For example, the twins wanted to go to Church St. in their pajamas, stand on the rocks, and sing when they were six. Why not? What the heck! Collin wanted to go school shopping at 1 AM in Hannaford’s, eat donuts, and drink chocolate milk in the aisle when he was 11. Why not? What the heck! You just have to set safe boundaries and stay one step ahead. WTHNs are some of our best memories.
Their eldest son, Collin, is 30 years old and lives in Winooski. He is a full time musician with three bands. His primary group, Rumblecat, released its first CD last year called Till the Neighbors Shout. Evan and Lindsey are twins and are almost 26. Evan is engaged to Nicole Kutcher and they live locally. Evan works for Production Advantage as the Manager of Technical Services and is an audio engineer. Nicole is a theatrical stage manager, formerly with the Vermont Stage Company. Lindsey works for Senator Patrick Leahy in Washington, DC and is applying to law school.
Tim was born in Allentown, PA and moved to New Milford, CT when he was six months old. New Milford was a factory town on the Housatonic River. Tim’s mother was a music teacher and his father was a cook at the Southbury Training School. Paula was born in Brooklyn NY to her father, a cab driver, and her mother, a switchboard operator and commercial artist. Her parents divorced when she was five and her mother remarried a doctor when Paula was 13. Her grandparents raised her through some difficult years and she moved to Manhattan for high school.
Tim’s brother Randy was 14 months older. Randy lived in California until he passed away from lung cancer just over 10 years ago. Paula has two adopted siblings from her mother’s second marriage, Naomi who lives in NJ and Joel who lives in Fl. She also has two step siblings from her father’s second marriage, a brother, Donald, who still lives in Brooklyn and a sister, Adrienne, who lives in FL. Paula is the youngest of all.
Both Paula and Tim had strong positive role models in their lives. For Tim, it’s his mother. Tim’s mom had Multiple Sclerosis which began in her 20’s and was diagnosed in her early 40’s. She maintained a positive attitude and was always willing to try new things. In her younger years she rebelled a bit by secretly going off to NYC with her older sister, Betty, going against their strict Methodist minister father’s wishes. Tim repeated that pilgrimage to New York City in high school despite his father’s preferences. So, Tim got his mom’s positive outlook and inclination toward adventure with a little bit of rule breaking.
Paula’s greatest influence was her maternal grandmother, Harriet. Harriet was the youngest of eight children who emigrated from Poland. Paula’s mother was an addict most of her life and her grandmother raised her beginning at age four. Paula lived with them in a 2-room apartment in Brooklyn with no kitchen or hallway, but her grandmother instilled many strong values like education, honesty, and friendship which guided Paula. Harriet believed that there were two things that get you out of poverty: education and good manners and she instilled those in Paula. Unfortunately, Harriet died before Paula went to college, the same year as her adopted father. Simultaneously, her mother became lost in addiction and left the family never to return. Paula never saw her again and found out she passed away a few years ago. Paula’s biological father also passed away about 10 years ago.
Good humor and wit are never far from Tim and Paula and they both recounted some humorous incidents in their lives growing up. Tim has many stories to tell. When he was in middle school, he brought home two hitch hikers for lunch. His mother was not thrilled, but fed them anyway. Apparently, he didn’t learn anything from that because he did a similar thing to Paula years later, but thought it was okay because he called her first!
Paula’s humorous story is tinged with some sadness. Paula’s mother was very neglectful and self-involved and didn’t attend to her well. When Paula was 4 or 5 years old she was walking along Brooklyn’s busy streets alone to go to the library on Saturday mornings to hear stories read aloud and get a snack. One Saturday, her mother awoke to find Paula missing. Upon her return, her mother questioned her whereabouts and didn’t believe her story about walking 10 blocks alone to the library. So her mother asked her to take her back to the library. When they walked in, the librarian promptly greeted Paula and said, “Back so soon?” Her mother and the librarian were stunned when the librarian said Paula came by herself every week as she had assumed her mother dropped her off.
Professionally Paula and Tim have had various career moves, each one seemingly a stepping stone to the next position each took.
After teaching Special Education for three years, Tim began selling life and disability insurance. Tim is an insurance broker and advisor at NFP (formerly Fleischer Jacobs Group). He has been there since 1997. He continues today helping businesses with their employee benefits and individuals with insurance for long term care, life, disability, and estate planning.
Paula was a physical therapist for nearly 20 years including teaching cardio vascular physical therapy at the University of New England. After returning to VT, there were no jobs in PT on the faculty and private practice didn’t exist yet in VT. She became the Director of Campaign & Communications for the United Way until she was approached by TD Bank (then Banknorth Group) to become Director of Staff Development. Following the birth of the twins, she also worked at the Vermont Program for Quality in Health Care as Director of Quality Improvement and Director of Government Relations. Those jobs and her masters in organizational development helped launch her 26-year career as a consultant and owner of Cope & Associates, Inc. This fall, Paula will begin teaching full time at the Grossman School of Business at UVM and will maintain her consulting practice with the help of her supportive staff. This is her dream come true.
Interestingly both Paula and Tim served as President of Congregation Temple Sinai. Here is their perspective on being President. “Paula was president from 1998-2000 and her focus was on the expansion of the Temple facility while Tim worked to raise the $1 million we needed to do the renovation. She was amazed that it was far more of a “calling” than she had expected and it was truly a transformational experience personally. During her tenure, she also became a bat mitzvah sharing the experience with her son, Collin. Tim was president from 2013-2015. He learned what an amazing group of committed people we have as members and how hard it was to manage the finances. It was difficult to balance the needs of the congregation with the capacity of the membership and to find new sources of revenue.”
With this perspective of being President, there are some things that both of them would like to see happening more often at Temple Sinai. Paula is a fan of themed services and congregational travel whether it’s a day in Montreal or a trip to Israel. She loves when people are called to the bimah by affinity group so we can see with whom we have things in common. She’d also like to see more people volunteer and have us support a new generation of leaders. She and Tim started getting involved when they were in their 30’s and their family was young. Tim would like to have 1-2 non-fundraising social events like the Progressive Dinner or Fun in the Sun, and more interfaith events with our community like the Thanksgiving Service we used to share with two churches.
Spare time activities and hobbies are always interesting avenues to explore with congregants and Tim and Paula are no exception. After decades of playing basketball weekly, Tim traded in his sneakers for a bicycle. He is an avid cyclist having gone around Lake Champlain, biking from Portland, Maine to Middlebury, VT, and riding their sons up to summer camp in Mt. Tremblant, Canada on a tandem for 7 years in a row. Paula loves kayaking and doing anything on the water. Both of them love the theater, going to Collin’s shows, traveling, and reading.
Paula loves to cook, mixology, pop culture, and enjoys exploring home design and décor. Tim isn’t much of a hobbyist, but loves a good card game. To quote him, “If a hobby requires doing things with your hands, following directions, and sitting still, I have no hobbies!”
When asked what the most difficult thing people have ever done and what was the most rewarding, they often say that the most difficult thing that they have done was also the most rewarding. Paula and Tim have interesting answers to both these questions. For Tim, the answer was the seven months Paula spent on total bed-rest while pregnant with the twins. She went on bed-rest at 9 weeks before most people knew she was pregnant. Tim had to manage their uncertain future, multiple health scares, managing his own business, his mother with MS, and a preschooler. The congregation, especially the Sisterhood, really stepped up and brought meals and kept Paula company through three seasons. For Paula, bed-rest comes in at number 2. Going to college as an emancipated minor at age 16 is at the top of her list. Both Paula’s biological parents were only children, when Paula was born, and she lost all of her grandparents and adopted father within a 2-year span. With help from some amazing people at UVM, she was able to graduate in four years. An optimistic outlook and keeping their eyes on the prize helped them both endure these situations. For both of them the most rewarding thing that they have done in their lives was raising great kids and having a terrific, caring, giving, and fun family.
There are some events that Paula and Tim have done about which some of you may not know. Tim and Collin spent 10 days in Tela, Honduras with a group from Charlotte-Shelburne Rotary’s program called, Hands to Honduras, building a school and physical therapy clinic. Paula was one of four UVM students that started UVM Rescue. She also helped open ROTC to women at UVM as their largest scholarship program in 1972.
When asked, “Where is your happy place?”, they had different answers. Paula’s happy place is being on any body of water with her family. Tim’s happy place is hanging out with Paula.
Thanks Paula & Tim for your willingness to be part of the Getting To Know You series.