November 22, 1958 - June 6, 2020 What is a life? A life is defined as the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death. That is exactly what we all have had the privilege of being a part of until the very end. In honor of James Kopkowski, Papa reminding us to keep emotions in check, let us stick with the facts and define his life. James Albert Kopkowski, 61, was prematurely called from this life to be with his Lord and Savior on Saturday, June 6, 2020, surrounded by his loving family. He was born on November 22, 1958 in Berwyn, Illinois, the son of Raymond and Alice (Hockel) Kopkowski. Papa graduated from Morton West High School in Berwyn, IL with the Class of 1976 and went on to earn his Bachelors of Science in Biology and Chemistry from the Illinois Benedictine University and his Masters in Analytical Chemistry from Governors State University, Hammond, Indiana. Jim married the love of his life, Pamela Kay Soile on December 26, 1990, in Joliet, Illinois with a reception at Bob Evans' restaurant because that is where his father loved. Relocating to Anacortes, WA in 2000 to work at Anacortes Refinery and to enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest, supporting the Anacortes Relay for Life, participating in Skagit Runners, Chairing the March Point Run, skiing with grandkids, swimming in his wet suit and ample other adventures. He careered as a Chemist and retired as the Superintendent and Quality Control Specialist at the Tesoro Anacortes Refinery (now Marathon). He was a mentor to his employees, and one of them had this to say about him: "I'll always remember his patience, kindness and sense of humor. Such a good person . . . He was also such a good boss (I considered him my lab dad). Jim told me to always put my family first because that is the most important thing. He talked about you all with so much love, his face lit up when talking about Sarah, J and Ben (and grandkids) but really shined when he talked about Pam." Papa or Kops, as many have known him, showed his great capacity for growth right up to the very end. His strong resilient being continued to alter into a soft spoken, kind, spiritual man in his last years. For those of us that have had the divine privilege of loving papa through his great capacity for growth can reflect on stories ranging from coaching a little league girls' softball team, crawling in tents with his grandkids, encouraging the very best from employees, and running 19 marathons in 19 months. "He was tough but fair." He pushed us to be our best and never settle for less. As a daughter, I remember sobbing in the dugout when I was 9 years old. He coached my softball team. We had played as a team for years and this was our golden year to win it all. When the draft came and he chose Suzy, a young girl with Down Syndrome that had never played he insisted she play each position at least once and bat. Which on said day meant we lost. Actually, we lost EVERY Single game that season, it was our worst season. Or so I thought . . . I now teach and specialize in special needs with a passion for every child to get an equal shot in life. In his last weeks, he prayed nightly with his granddaughters and told stories of catching pigeons to sell to the hunters for a buck a piece. He asked about each of his friends and family frequently and wanted to make sure everyone was taken care of. Through the years this is what he has always done, we just did not know. The unpraised hero, the unspoken thank you, the silent cheerleader up to the very end. Papa was preceded in death by his dad: Raymond Kopkowski; he is survived by his mom: Alice; his wife of 29 years, Pamela; children (spouses): John (Raelyn), Benjamin (Kathleen) and Sarah Weiler; greatly loved grandchildren: Tiffany (Deepak Boppishetty), Abigail Horn, Sarie & Caleb Davis, Ethan, Grady, Amelia & Zoe Chapman, Elizabeth and Sarah Weiler; his siblings: Don (Gwynn), David (Geil) Kopkowski and Lynn (Jerry Ziegler) and numerous nieces and nephews, all of whom he adored. To share memories of James, please sign the online guestbook at

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