John Charles Henry Copp
Plot U, Lot 26
Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto
Johnny Copp, as he was known to his myriad of friends, was born in Toronto on September 26, 1911. On December 3, 1933 the popular University of Toronto football star was dead, gunned down in the prime of life. His murderer has never been found.
On the evening of Thursday, November 30, 1933 Johnny and his friend Edmund Houston had been studying in a room on the third floor of the Copp residence at 96 Wellesley Street East. That evening, Johnny’s mother was hosting a bridge party and most of the guests were busy down on the main floor, playing their respective hands. As Johnny made his way to the second floor to use the telephone, through the landing window he saw someone outside on the porch roof skulking in the shadows. Yelling to Houston that someone was trying to break in, presumably to rifle the pockets of the guests’ clothes thrown across the beds on the second floor, Johnny rushed down the stairs, out the back door and confronted the person now purposely hidden in the shadows where the porch roof joined the house. In a loud whisper, the intruder warned the young man away. When Johnny shouted out again, the burglar-to-be jumped to the ground, grappled with the young man and a shot rang out. The burglar fled over the back fence and a stricken Johnny Copp staggered up the back porch steps, into the house and collapsed on the kitchen floor.
The police and an ambulance were called and the young man was soon in the operating room of the Wellesley Hospital where for three hours medical experts, including Dr. Herbert Bruce and the boy’s own father Dr. Charles Copp, himself a prominent Toronto surgeon, worked to stop the bleeding. It looked for a while as if the 22-year-old would make it, but after numerous transfusions using blood donated by many of Johnny’s football and fraternity friends, the young man died on Sunday, December 3 - the very day he was to address his Sunday School class at Rosedale United Church, using notes he had been preparing before his friend, Houston, had come over that fateful Thursday night.
So great was the grief exhibited by his classmates, fellow students, players from football teams against which Johnny had competed, family friends, and ordinary Torontonians, it was decided by the university president Dr. Henry Cody, that classes would be cancelled on Tuesday, December 5 and a public funeral held in Convocation Hall on the university grounds. This was the first time someone other than a university official or political figure had been accorded such an honour. Notables at the funeral and in the procession from Convocation Hall to the cemetery included Mayor William Stewart and a large number of city council members, provincial and federal government and university officials plus thousands of grieving citizens. Even though over the ensuing years, dozens of suspects were rounded up and questioned no one was ever charged with Johnny’s murder.
Many things may have changed since 1933, but Johnny’s church still maintains a special room named in memory of the young man. And to this day, the University of Toronto continues to award both a football trophy and scholarship in the name of Johnny Copp.
Mount Pleasant Cemetery: An Illustrated Guide
Second Edition Revised and Expanded