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WORLD CHAMPION TIE-DOWN ROPER JEFF COPENHAVER PASSES AWAY
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Jeff Copenhaver, the 1975 PRCA World Champion Tie-Down Roper, and an instrumental figure in the cowboy ministry, passed away May 17 in Granbury, Texas. He was 73.
Copenhaver is the son of ProRodeo Hall of Famer and two-time Saddle Bronc Riding World Champion Deb Copenhaver. Deb passed away Feb. 6, 2019, at the age of 94.
“It was a great ride,” said Sherry Copenhaver, about her marriage to Jeff for 43 years. “I want people to remember that he made a difference for God in this Earth and that he was a great mentor, a great roping coach and I lived with a champion, and I lived with a fighter.”
Jeff and Sherry had one child, daughter, Shandy, who is married to Cody Stromberg.
Jeff qualified for the National Finals Rodeo six times – 1971, 1973-76 and 1978. He was fourth and fifth in the world standings in 1974 and ’76 and was the world champ in 1975.
“Jeff lived life with a passion and zeal,” Sherry said. “He was able to give back to others. He was able to be a great mentor and tutor and helped others become world champions.”
Jeff was born Jan. 12, 1949, and raised on a ranch in Post Falls, Idaho.
Jeff started roping at age four and by 11 he was competing seriously. In addition to help from his dad, and roper George Richmond, and Warren Wuthier, Jeff also honed his roping skills by watching old movies of ProRodeo Hall of Famers Dean Oliver and Jim Bob Altizer roping.
Jeff did go through a one-week binge of wanting to ride roughstock but that faded quickly.
“When I was 14 years old, I weighed 175 pounds, which was too big to start with, and I decided right quick to leave the broncs and bulls to someone else,” said Copenhaver in a May 31, 1978, article of the ProRodeo Sports News. “I had been roping since I was about 11 years old, and I liked tying down calves best, anyway.”
Jeff joined the PRCA in 1968. He won the Columbia River Circuit Year-End title in 1976 and Lone Star Circuit, now known as the Texas Circuit, in 1978 and was the champion at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in 1974 and 1978.
“A contestant might have all the ability in the world but he’s not going to do any good until he learns how to win by eliminating all his mistakes,” Copenhaver said in the May 31, 1978, article of the PSN.
Jeff trained champion tie-down and breakaway ropers for more than 30 years, in the U.S. and Canada. He has also trained champions in Australia and Cuba.
In 1986, Jeff and Sherry started America’s first Cowboy church at Billy Bob’s in the historic Fort Worth (Texas) Stockyards. Jeff and Sherry spent years traveling nationally and internationally teaching roping schools and motivating others to be champions for God in their world.
Copenhaver also wrote a book titled “God Wants You to Win!”
“It was great to accomplish a goal that was my whole life,” said Copenhaver about winning his world championship in a Dec. 9, 2008, article in the Spokesman-Review. “It consumed my every thought, every breath, my very existence. That night I sat on the edge of my bed and asked, ‘Is that all there is?’ Even with the satisfaction of accomplishing that there was a void, and it started a three-year search.”
According to the article in the Spokesman-Review, three years later, at a rodeo in Madison Square Garden in New York, Copenhaver and his wife, Sherry, ran into an old friend, “a calf roper from Connecticut, you can imagine how rare that is,” Copenhaver said.
The Copenhavers were struck by his demeanor.
“I could just see the peace, the contentedness, that something good had happened to him,” Copenhaver said.
After grilling their friend, the Copenhavers returned to their motel.
“We knelt down at the end of our bed,” he recalled, “and asked Jesus Christ into our hearts.”
Steer roper and pastor Corey Ross praised Copenhaver.
“The greatest thing about Jeff is he had a heart for the Lord,” Ross said. “When you have a heart for God then you have a heart to want to help people. That’s what his mission was. I met Jeff many, many years ago and I had such a love for him and his family.”
Funeral services for Copenhaver will take place at 10:30 a.m. (CT) May 23 at the Cowboy Church of Erath County in Stephenville, Texas.