Eli James Kopperud (Butch), 97, of Ely, chose to move on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, at Boundary Waters Care Center in Ely, after a lifetime of teaching people how to be kind and happy. His gentle humor was intact even as the horrors of Parkinson’s ravaged his body and mind.
He was born in Brush Prairie, WA, to Linda (Mathiason) and Eimer Kopperud on October 23rd, 1923 and moved as a baby back to Walnut Grove, MN, where his parents had previously settled after emigrating from Norway.
He grew up a farmer, attending a one room school house until 8th grade, using horses to farm the land and lamenting the fact he had to wear shoes when summer ended. After graduating from high school in 1941, he tended the home farm until one of his older brothers returned from WWII before the government allowed him to join the Navy, where he served as a Seabee.
After returning from the Navy he married Ely native, Shirley Trembath in 1949, and they farmed in the Walnut Grove area until 1964, when they moved with their children to Ely.
In Ely, Butch worked first as a mechanic and then Parts Manager at the former Forest Chevrolet Garage until it closed in November 1980, after which he worked a short stint at Robinson Chevrolet in Virginia, before joining Mike Motors as Parts Manager and working there until his retirement in 1989.
Butch enjoyed a good joke, had the patience of a saint, and an optimism towards life that stayed with him until he passed. Until the infirmities of age kept him from his hobby, he enjoyed woodworking and making furniture and he built many things for friends and relatives as well as selling some things (but only to make room to make more as it was never about the money). He was an inventor at heart, and enjoyed creating anything that helped or amused others.
Longtime members of Grace Lutheran Church, Butch and Shirley were married over 50 years, a marriage ended only by Shirley’s death from cancer in 2000.
Butch is survived by a son, Brian, of Mapleton, MN; a daughter Laurie (Jim) Mertz, of Bloomington, MN; two granddaughters, Ryann and Kenzie Mertz; special friend Jean Nelson, of Ely; one brother Roger (Marian) Kopperud, of Westbrook, MN; brother-in-law Tom Trembath, of Ely, nephew Keith (Patty) Trembath, and many other nieces and nephews.
He was predeceased by his wife, Shirley, an infant daughter; three brothers, Truman (Elffie), Marlin (Verna), and Konrad (Marian); three sisters, Eldora (Floyd) Bakken, Lorraine (Oscar) Steffin, and Anna Margaret (Earl) Warner; sister-in-law Marge Trembath, and several nephews.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Parkinson’s Foundation in Butch’s name, either online or directed to the family.
Funeral arrangements are pending and taken care of by Kerntz Funeral Home in Ely
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