WHEATLAND – She never knew her famous father-in-law, Cowboy Copas, but she carries the stories and memories she gained from Copas’ son Randy Copas. The couple were married for 37 years and she still wears the Copas last name.
Dawn Copas was born in Lusk and raised on a ranch in Niobrara County and became a Wyoming cowgirl through and through.
“I was riding horses before I could walk,” she said. “My family bred and raised Appaloosa horses and I showed horses, was in 4H and also high school rodeo.”
She also had a love for music, and says that she took piano lessons from Harriet Thompson and played piano in both church and school. That talent would play big later in life.
She was multitalented and also had a love for art. It seemed as if she has the golden touch when it comes to whatever she puts her hand to. In high school she was a promising art student and was awarded an art scholarship to Casper College.
After college Copas met her husband, Randy. His father, Cowboy Copas was born Lloyd Estel Copas in 1913 and made it big in country music and was a member of the Grand Old Opry from the ‘40s until his death in 1963. He died in a plane crash that also killed country stars Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Copas’ son-in-law and Patsy Cline’s manager, Randy Hughes.
According to an article, 1963 Camden PA-24 crash, “On March 5, they left for Nashville in a Piper Comanche. After stopping to refuel in Dyersburg, Tenn., the craft took off at 6:07 p.m. CT. The plane flew into severe weather and crashed at 6:29 p.m. in a forest near Camden, Tenn. 90 miles from the destination. There were no survivors. A stone marker, dedicated July 6, 1996, marks the location of the crash. Copas was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Goodlettsvillle, Tenn. in “Music Row” with Hawkins and other country music stars.”
According to Copas, the pilot was not trained in aviation instruments and perhaps should not have been flying in adverse conditions.
Randy Copas who was following in his father’s footsteps as a country musician formed a band utilizing his wife, Dawn on piano and vocals. Their band played through most of the United States and Canada. They even did a USO tour to Thule, Greenland
The band became well-known and played dance clubs and casinos in Nevada and often was an opening act for various other groups and country recording artists.
“After Randy’s death in 2016, I only played in my basement,” she said. “I lived in Bar Nunn, which is just north of Casper. Lance and Lilly Nilson, co-owners and musicians at the Stampede in Chugwater encouraged me to play onstage with them at their establishment.”
The Nilsons and the Copas’ have known each other since the 1980s and knew each other from playing some of the same clubs. At one time, Nilson was a member of “Randy Copas and Lonesome Heart” as they played the Nevada circuit which included various towns and casinos.
The death of her husband came as quite a shock to not only Dawn, but the music world as well. After surgery for A.R.D.S. (acute respiratory distress syndrome) March 17, 2016 he passed and he left a wife behind who could no longer hear the music playing in her life.
She withdrew with a broken heart and wouldn’t play publicly until the Nilsons encouraged her to continue with Randy’s legend and his vision to play music that would cause people to smile in the midst of an adverse world. And somehow, she would have to believe that for herself.
Today Copas plays a wide variety of musical styles and caters to the crowd she is in front of.
“I play to the crowd the best I know how,” she said. “If I can make them forget reality for a while and maybe get them to dance and smile as they listen to the music, then it’s worth it for me. Perhaps it brings backs memories, and it brings a tear or two. I know it does for me,”
Her love for horses, music and art give her much to do and she keeps herself young never stopping long enough to slow down.
Now, five years after the death of her husband, she has found love again with champion bronc rider, former prizefighter and authentic Wyoming cowboy Doug Kafka who owns a ranch north of Wheatland.
“My husband and I first met Doug when our band was playing at Frontier Days in Cheyenne,” she said. “We played at the Buckle Club on the grounds of Frontier Park. Doug worked untying stock in the arena and he helped with the chuckwagon races and bullfighters. He had been doing that for 11 years.”
After Randy’s death, Kafka and Copas found each other again on Facebook and what started as friends has turned into a partnership on the ranch and in life.
Copas now plays occasionally at the Stampede in Chugwater along with other venues and many times will enlist and encourage other musicians to join her onstage. To contract her for performances, you can find her at: https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=dawn%20copas.