Dolores H. Gibson
To the Advertiser-Gleam
“Betty Jean Coplin was my sister and friend. She was kind enough to share her daughter Kimberly Ann Stokes with me, as I had no children.
We both loved Kimberly very much. She was developmentally disabled, but a joy to everyone who knew her. Betty was a wonderful mother and the love and bond between she and Kimberly was totally awesome to behold. Betty sacrificed and worked extremely hard all of her life to provide a good life for them. She was a wonderful nurse for over 40 years, one who cared for her patients. She worked many different places, Guntersville and Albertville Hospitals, and the Health Department and did some travel nursing later in her career.
At that time, there were not many group homes in our area for the developmentally disabled, so Betty took a job at the VA in Tuscaloosa where she found a home for Kimberly during the time she worked, and she always took her home when she wasn’t working. Betty would visit her when she was working also. Kimberly was very fortunate to have a mom who loved her unconditionally, and did everything in her power to give her the best possible life.
After many years at the VA in Tuscaloosa, Betty made the decision to come home as she was getting older and wanted Kimberly to be around family. She moved and built a very nice home for them; this was the 3rd and last home she would build. She transferred to the Birmingham VA and drove back and forth many years from Guntersville. She not only worked as a nurse, she was also an awesome cook, mowed and took care of 10 acres of land around her home. Her home was always spotless. I never knew how she did it and still had time for Kimberly and family, but she did. I realized how she did it later, she never stopped, always moving. I always said, you could eat off her floors, they were so clean.
She had always worried what would happen to Kimberly if something should happen to her, so she decided to go through HUD to build a group home (The Johnson Home) for the developmentally disabled. We did an application every year for three years and finally were awarded a grant to build the home. It took another year to get the firm commitment and then to get the home built. It opened in 2003, and has capacity for 3 persons who are mentally challenged. The home is absolutely beautiful. Betty designed and decorated it. She thought of everything. She put window seats in each bedroom, with a twin mattress so a family member could stay in the event of sickness. Each bedroom also has its own shower and large closet. The rooms are very spacious. Kimberly loved her new home. Of course, we would get her every weekend, but it also gave Kimberly her own independence.
About 3 to 5 years after Betty retired, she had a TIA in the right side of her brain and later developed dementia. She had worked hard all her life and then wasn’t able to really enjoy her retirement. She was a trooper though and tried to handle it the best she could. Of course people did not understand, and I wasn’t sure what was wrong with her in the beginning either, but she was my sister and I loved her and Kimberly. Kimberly passed away on March 9, 2015, and Betty took her death really hard. She would ask me where she was and I learned very quickly to tell her she was home and not that she had died.
I always told Betty she was a very classy and beautiful woman with a very big heart. Betty’s last 2-plus years were at Barfield Health care, where we met our second family. The staff there were so caring and became like family to us. I have to mention one of the CNAs by name, Lori. I told her she was the best CNA ever, and all CNAs should strive to be as good as her. She loved my sister, my family, and we loved her and many other staff members at Barfield.
We also brought in Hospice a few months before Betty passed away. They too are absolutely wonderful. They do more now than just end of life care. Her nurse, Christie, was awesome also. They care deeply for their patients and try to keep them as comfortable as possible.
After a long struggle, Betty passed away May 7, 2019.
I can’t help but recall my sister this time of year. September 30 would have been her 80th birthday. She and Kimberly are together now and I know they are both happy. They will both forever live in our hearts. We will always love them both.
I would like to say a huge “thank you” to Barfield Health Care Staff and to Shepherd’s Cove Hospice Staff and their volunteers for all they did for my sister and my family. You are all angels on earth and you will be rewarded one day for all your efforts.”