Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Dan F. Kopen’

Dr. Dan F. Kopen: A Celebration of Life

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Dr. Dan F. Kopen: A Celebration of Life

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Copyright 2015
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project

Because someone we love is in heaven, there’s a little bit of heaven in our home.

Mercy Center in Dallas, Pennsylvania, founded by the Religious Sisters of Mercy, is a place Kitch and I know very well. WhenIMG_9629_sm_MC Kitch’s mother was in the long term care unit, we were there almost every day.

Located on the campus of Misericordia University, this facility and its staff reflect the inner light of Mother Catherine McCauley’s advice to meet people with peace and ease and to treat people with kind words, gentle and compassionate looks and a patient hearing of their sorrows.

At Mercy Center the four charisms of the Sisters of Mercy: Hospitality, Justice, Service and Mercy are practiced every day.

On this beautiful May afternoon, our destination was the chapel in Mercy Center. There we would offer condolences to Kathy Kopen, her children, her mother-in-law and her sister-in-law, and we would participate in “A Celebration of the Life and Loving Memory of Dr. Dan F. Kopen.” Both experiences produced priceless moments of admiration, friendship, gratitude and love.

What happened during the reception is private and personal, and it will remain in our hearts forever.

The celebration of life service was a beautiful and poignant tribute to a great man. This is our attempt to reconstruct the event and share several of the inspirational thoughts that put Dan Kopen’s life in perspective

A Wonderful Man

Shortly after 3 p.m., Sister Carol Gallagher welcomed everyone, IMG_1141smand she set the tone for the service with a quotation from New York Times columnist, David Brooks: I came to the conclusion that wonderful people are made, not born – that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments.

She characterized Dr. Dan F. Kopen as a wonderful person. They met 30 years ago when he was a young physician at Mercy Hospital in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. According to Sister Carol, Dr. Kopen was a man of strong opinions, kindness, gentleness and compassion.

Before she finished her remarks, she thanked Dr. Kopen for his gift of energizing love. In so doing she affirmed one of the most001620_CM important instructions of the woman who founded the Sisters of Mercy, Mother Catherine McAuley:

The most acceptable return a benefactor can receive from those on whom he bestows favors, is a countenance testifying the gratitude of the heart.

Sister Carol’s colleague, Sister Robert Marie, led the congregation in singing Amazing Grace.

The beautiful lyrics of this song and the magnificent voice of Sister Robert Marie caused a rush of emotions that made it impossible for me to participate in this part of the service.

After the opening prayer, Dr. Kopen’s children, Krystin, Kaytlin and Derek, read their father’s favorite poem, “If” by Rudyard Kipling. It was a very touching moment, because it reminded me of my high school graduation. On that day, my parents gave me a card inscribed with the “If” poem and a note that read: “If you follow this advice, you will be happy.”

An Ethical and Moral Man

Dr. Thomas Kelly, a distinguished college professor and administrator, has been a friend of Dr. Kopen since the 1950s. He FF Schoolcame to the podium with a notebook and a purpose. He wanted to define his friend by sharing special moments from their lifetime friendship. They grew up in a small town, Forty Fort, Pennsylvania. They participated in Little League, football and wrestling. They were outstanding students and leaders both in high school and in college.

When he was a teenager, Tom Kelly identified several characteristics in his friend, Dan Kopen, the second baseman on the Little League team and the slender young man who had his neck broken in a wrestling match. Dan Kopen was sincere, hardworking and studious. He had grit. Tom Kelly believes that distinguished him and became the foundation for his many successes in life.

Dr. Kelly shared the main point in his reflection in words that were carefully chosen and unequivocal: “Dan Kopen was the most moral and ethical person I have ever known.” Sitting in the back of the room, I could see people nodding their heads in agreement.

Once again, the words of Mother Catherine McAuley apply:

The simplest and most practical lesson I know…is to resolve to be good today, but better tomorrow.

A well-known scriptural reading from Ecclesiastes followed Dr. Kelly’s remarks. It began with words familiar to everyone in the congregation:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

A Compassionate Man

In 1987, a nurse named Michelle joined the medical team at Dr. Dan Kopen’s office. For the next 27 years she worked closely with Dr. Kopen and his wife Kathy to give patients excellent care. KitchIMG_8980_Michelle and I met Michelle when she visited our home to check Kitch’s reaction after her lumpectomy. Michelle was polite, pleasant and very supportive.

On this day she talked about the boss she loved, the patients he told her to think of first, and the members of her family whose lives were saved by Dr. Kopen’s extraordinary surgical skill.

Five times during her presentation she used the word compassion to describe Dr. Kopen and his interaction with patients. Every time she used this word she provided an example to help people better understand how Dr. Kopen’s kind and compassionate way helped patients and family members deal with the horrifying diagnosis of cancer. He knew when to give a patient a hug. A patient told Michelle, “He could deliver bad news and make you feel good about it.” A patient’s daughter was so impressed with Dr. Kopen’s care for her mother, she decided to become an oncology nurse. He knew that at some point in life we all need to be carried, and he knew how to carry people with compassion, kindness and skill. Patients sensed his quiet confidence and his compassion.

In her Cork Manuscript, Catherine McAuley wrote something that DDK_smsummarizes everything Michelle Rohrbeck said about her relationship with Dr. Kopen and his relationship with everyone he met:

Our charity is to be cordial. Now cordial signifies something that renews, invigorates and warms. Such should be the effect of our love for each other.

Michelle Rohrbeck’s insightful portrait of Dr. Kopen was followed by the singing of the Prayer of St. Francis and a reading from scripture, Romans 6:3-4. 8-9. Then, Sister Robert Marie sang the Alleluia, and the congregation joined her.

After this touching moment, a Catholic priest read the Gospel, John 14:1-6, 23, 27.

A Lucky Man

Sister Kate Morris is a member of the faculty at Holy Redeemer High School. In 1990, she met Dr. Kopen as a patient. During her battle with cancer, she experienced his “wonderful uniqueness.”

In a soft spoken voice, she told the congregation, my doctor was the best. He was dignified, humble, compassionate, gentle, thorough,IMG_4669_DK_OR and kind. He inconvenienced himself to get her information about her condition in a timely way.

She provided a memorable portrait of Dr. Kopen when she shared this story. On the day of her father’s surgery, her mother asked if she could bless Dr. Kopen’s hands with holy relics. Dr. Kopen responded with a comment, “I will take the holy relics with me into surgery. We will both be in God’s hands.”

After her surgery and treatment, Sister Kate became a loyal family friend of the Kopens. She recounted visits to their home and priceless moments she shared with his family. On one occasion, Dr. Kopen told her he was a lucky man. He said his most precious gift was his family, and he believed that all gifts are given by God.

Sister Kate ended her reflection with this description of her friend. Dan Kopen was a brilliant, dignified, loving, caring man. We experienced through him the love of God.
Sister Kate’s heartfelt tribute was deeply rooted in a cardinal rule of Catherine McAuley:

Confidence in God causes us to hope, for everything comes from His paternal goodness.

Community Moments

The final part of this beautiful celebration of life can best be described as a series of community moments. There was a thoughtful IMG_9620_sm_MCprayer of the faithful, in which everyone in the chapel asked a God of mercy to hear our prayer.

We sang a hymn that always evokes emotion and reflection, Let There Be Peace On Earth.

Karen Reiniger, an administrator at Mercy Center, led the congregation in a closing prayer, and Sister Robert Marie sang a passionate rendition of an Irish Blessing.

Before people left the chapel they stopped to talk with friends and acquaintances. They sought out the speakers to offer their thanks for the eloquent words they spoke about Dr. Kopen.

In the chapel at Mercy Center we gathered to celebrate Dr. Dan F. Kopen. Our hearts were burdened by the loss of this great man. KitchK_DC and I came to this gathering with a gnawing emptiness knowing that we would never see Dan Kopen. When we left, the pain was still real, but there was also a building sense of comfort. The mosaic of his life made us certain that he is in heaven. As Kitch said so thoughtfully, “Instead of praying for him, we can now pray to him.”

“A Celebration of Life: In Loving Memory of Dr. Dan Kopen” was a perfect tribute to a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a friend and a surgeon who is loved by many. Dr. Kopen’s life gives great meaning to Mother Catherine McAuley’s words:

If we are humble and sincere, God will finish in us the work He has begun. He never refuses His grace to those who ask it.

Thank you, Dr. Kopen for showing us the way to a life of health and happiness.

Thank you, Dr. Kopen for your inspiring example of what America is at its very best.

Please provide feedback to:

Dr. Dan F. Kopen: America At Its Best

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Dr. Dan F. Kopen: A Radiant Face of America

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Tony Mussari, Sr
Copyright 2015
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project

Great men show politeness in a particular way; a smile suffices to assure you that you are welcome, and keep about their avocations as if you were a member of the family. John James Audubon

In 2011, Kitch and I were presented with one of the biggest challenges of our life. It was the day Dr. Dan Kopen told Kitcha_118DrK she had breast cancer. At the time, we knew Dr. Kopen by his reputation. During the next four years, we would get to know Dr. Kopen as a member of our family.

As a physician, Dr. Dan Kopen was a perfect partner in our battle with cancer. He was caring, compassionate and competent. He was available, and he treated Kitch like a patient not a client. He gave us confidence that everything would turn out well.

He once described the cornerstone of his medical practice with these words: “Treat every patient like they are members of the family.”

Whenever we were with him in his office, his surgical center, DK KL2msmin our garden, at Candy’s Place (The Center for Cancer Wellness) or at a local restaurant, he was the personification of gentleness, goodness and kindness. He understood and he respected the insight that a person does not get cancer. A family gets cancer. He wanted to lessen our fears and give us hope.

Henri Nouwen’s beautiful words accurately describe our medical relationship with Dr. Kopen:

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of confusion or despair… who can tolerate not knowing… not healing… not curing…who can be patient with our human imperfections and our anxieties…the person who refuses to give up on us when we are in the dark house…the person who reaches out to ease the pain and uncertainty that is a friend indeed.

We are blessed to be able to say that these priceless words also describe our friendship with Dr. Kopen.

The Measure of His Greatness

When President Harry Truman spoke these words, he was describing Dan Kopen:


In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves…self discipline with all of them came first.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote these words, he was describing Dan Kopen:

Great men are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force – that thoughts rule the world.

President Dwight David Eisenhower emphasized six qualities Dan Kopen possessed:

The qualities of a great man are vision, integrity, courage, understanding, the power of articulation, and profundity of character.

Sir Winston Churchill identified another characteristic of 110_3dkspeakingDan Kopen with this aphorism:

The price of greatness is responsibility.

Benjamin Franklin penned a thought that identifies the essence of Dan Kopen:

There never was a truly great man that was not at the same time truly virtuous.

Edward Gardner gave us another important insight into the life of Dan Kopen:

It’s not what you take but what you leave behind that defines greatness.

Dr. Kopen’s Legacy

On May 26, Dr. Dan Kopen made his way to heaven. After a courageous battle with ALS disease, he left behind a sterling reputation as a husband, father, physician, surgeon, author andDK pict community leader.

His inspirational example will live on in the hearts and souls of thousands of patients who will remember his kindness.

His charitable work will enable serious-minded students to become doctors.

His book, Common Sense Health Care Reform, will continue to provide a blueprint for compassionate patient-based health care.

He was part of a team that created the Welles Street Medical Arts Complex in Forty Fort. He established the breast cancer surgery component of the Welles Street Medical Arts Complex. This medical arts center is a model for integrated medical services for breast cancer patients.

For those of us who were privileged to know him, his life and legacy give truth to the words of G. K. Chesterton:

There is a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the man who makes every man feel great.


Dr. Dan Kopen was a “real great man.” He was genuine, and he always gave his very best to everyone he met.

For Kitch and me, Dr. Dan Kopen gave life and meaning in actions, not words, to the admonition of Thomas Merton:

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone- we find it with one another.

In death as in life, Dr. Dan Kopen is a radiant Face of America on its best day. He is admired, respected and loved, and he will always have a very special place in our hearts.

Please provide feedback to: