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Celebrate the Life of Gerry Cope MD

Create a Musical legacy in Doc's Memory

This special campaign is being offered by the family of Gerry Cope, known to some as "Family Doc," to others as "Combat Doc" and to his family as Pops. Gerry departed this life on February 7, 2024 after a 12-year battle with prostate cancer.  Cancer did not win, but instead was forced into a draw against his unyielding spirit. His body finally gave out after he drained every ounce of gas in his tank to be with the people he loved, cherishing the very final moments of a life well lived.


Born January 19,1947 to Jack and Lucile Purcell Cope in Farmington, New Mexico., he attended the local schools there and worked at Cope Memorial Chapel and helped create Cope Memory Gardens Cemetery.  As a young boy he would ride alongside his father on ambulance calls, fly their plane to retrieve remains while his father slept in the backseat, mow the cemetery grounds, and jumped his father’s new Volkswagen Beetle so violently that the motor fell out.  Growing up in the family-owned funeral home did not make him the most popular kid in school, but he would make up for that by making friends everywhere he went for the rest of his life.

After his father passed in 1963 when he was sixteen, he accompanied his mother and sister, Janet, to their new home in Salt Lake City where he graduated from East High School.  Upon his graduation from the University of Utah with a BS in political science, he was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy and served two tours in Viet Nam as a surface warfare officer aboard the USS Paricutin. 

He married Catherine Ostler in 1970.  After his service in the Navy, he spent a few years working for PacBell in the San Francisco Bay area.  During that time his first two boys, Geoffrey and Peter arrived.  Career-wise, Gerry realized he was not content with where he was headed in life. By force of sheer will power and unrelenting hard work he dramatically altered his trajectory.  He attended community college full time for two years to complete the necessary science credits, studied for an entire year to pass the MCAT, and was admitted at the age of 29 to George Washington Medical School in Washington, DC. 

He returned to the US Navy as an officer and received tuition and a sharp looking dress white uniform.  After receiving his MD, he completed his first year of residency at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.  His third son Thomas arrived and the ever-expanding family moved from Sugarland Run, Virginia to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina where his son Matthew joined the clan. Camp Lejeune provided beaches to run on, woodworking shops, tank crossings, free airshows, and the lagoons to expose his boys to his love of sailing through secret late night missions sailing 19’ lightnings by moonlight. 

As a base physician he was called up to support the multi-national peacekeeping force in Beirut, Lebanon.  ‘Combat Doc’ as he was lovingly referred to by his family narrowly missed being in the US embassy when it was destroyed by one of the first uses of suicide truck bombs.  He treated the wounded and tended to the dead that day.  He completed his tour of duty in Beirut, met his two older boys in Key West and gave them an epic ride up the eastern seaboard aboard a ship filled with sailors and jarheads who thought the world of him. He also brought back a pretty sweet moustache. 

He finished his last two years and residency at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, and completed his military service at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Virginia and then quickly exited the Navy.  He founded Family Medicine of Lake Ridge, Virginia where he became a fixture in the medical community as  ‘Family Doc’ alongside his business partner and lifelong friend Dr. Pete Mendel. He surrounded himself with an amazing staff and built a thriving business one patient and countless physicals at a time.  He traded his sails for steam and spent countless days on the Potomac aboard his Sea Ray or with a golf club in his hand with a fantastic group of friends.

Upon receiving his cancer diagnosis in the fall of 2011, he embarked on his final and most surprising act.  He got in his car, left everything behind and changed his latitude one last time.  Gerry made his final home in Carlsbad, California alongside his soulmate Natilee Meacham. On a blind date, they met for a glass of wine, that stretched to dinner and drinks over six hours.  After a couple months they spent their first Christmas together in a camper van traveling around the South Island of New Zealand getting to know each other.  From there and for the next ten years they would see the world together, savoring adventure on land and sea.  They were married in 2020 aboard his beloved Windsong.  They quickly became fixtures at Southwestern Yacht club and participated on charitable committees while racing and sailing the Pacific.  Natilee and Gerry loved and joyfully appreciated each other without reservation or limit.  His dedication to their marriage and his enjoyment of her company extended his life by years and fulfilled him in a way that surprised all of us, especially him.

In his final months all his hard edges were knocked away exposing a man who was so eternally grateful for the life experiences and relationships that he had.  He raised four feral boys to adulthood without losing a single one, despite all of their best efforts.  They left behind a trail of twisted cars, motorcycles, hang gliders, surfboards and miles and miles of stiches that he lovingly sewed into all of them.  He gave his boys a hand when they needed it whether it was a hug, and hand up or a kick in the ass when required.

He sailed and skippered Windsong on Saturday, sharing cocktails and a cigar with all his boys and grandsons around him while doting on his dearest Natilee and his pup Abby.  He was tired, but he never stopped moving or giving stern direction to the boys setting the sails.  Echoes of “Your other left!” still reverberate around Point Loma.  He ate his favorite lasagna and carrot cake, blew out belated birthday candles on board that night singing songs surrounded by the people he loved.  Doc said his goodbyes to his boys on Sunday as they flew back to their families.  Monday evening, he sent his final message to his boys via text.

“I want to thank each of you for creating our special time together.  Being with you and your families was just priceless.  I love each of you beyond words.  I am truly proud of the Copes and I see brightness around all my boys.  Love to everyone, Pops.”

He was gone Wednesday morning.

He is survived by his sister, Janet Cope Powell; his wife, Natilee, his bestest four-legged friend Abby; his four sons: Geoff, Pete (April Keeton), Tommy (Filly Gaines) and Matt (Kellyann Cavaretta) and by his five grandchildren:Tallousa, Scarlett, Peter, Alden, and Atticus Cope. Services are planned for the spring with his ashes to be spread in the Pacific Ocean along Point Loma, San Diego.


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