Kopman championed developmentally disabled


Marlene Kopman, whose own experience with a developmentally disabled child motivated her to champion the cause of such children, and a former president of the Rainbow Village Board, died Sunday, Aug. 16, 2009, at her home in Creve Coeur. She was 77 and had fought breast cancer since 1995, according to her family.

Marlene and Jerrry Kopman adopted a small boy who they later would learn was developmentally disabled; a doctor advised the couple not to keep him. The Kopmans did not follow that advice and raised their son Ricky along with another son, Jeffrey, who was born later. Mrs. Kopman recalled getting a call from another mother of a developmentally disabled child who asked what would happen to their children when they got old or after they died.

The result of that conversation was the founding of Rainbow Village in the 1960s, a highly regarded residential campus and training center in St. Louis County. Mrs. Kopman became president of the Rainbow Village Board of Directors. When her son Ricky graduated from high school, she was part of the group who started West County Sheltered Workshop, now called Valley Industries, a business which employs people with disabilities.

Mrs. Kopman also served two terms as president of St. Louis Arc, where she helped start a pre-school program. She was named by President Jimmy Carter to the Presidential Committee on Mental Retardation. In 1979, the old St. Louis Globe-Democrat named her a Woman of Achievement.

“There has been no stronger advocate for people with developmental disabilities than Marlene,” said Kathy Meath, president and CEO of St. Louis Arc. “Young parents of children with disabilities have her tireless efforts to thank for the compre hensive services that are available today.” John Taylor, vice president for development of St. Louis Arc, also praised Mrs. Kopman’s “exemplary and dedicated service.”

Mrs. Kopman served on the board of the National Council of Jewish Women/St. Louis Section and the Jewish Hospital Auxiliary. She was a member of Temple Israel.

A memorial service was held last Tuesday at Temple Israel. Burial was private.

In addition to Mrs. Kopman’s husband, survivors include a sister, Bette Jean Greenblatt of Creve Coeur. Ricky Kopman died in 1998, at the age of 42. His younger brother, Jeffrey Kopman, died at age 24 in a traffic accident in 1981.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Kopman Fund at St. Louis Arc, 1816 Lackland Hill Parkway, Suite 200, St. Louis, Mo. 63146.