Iris Copeland Sesko

October 15, 1933 ~ May 2, 2020 (age 86)


Iris “Judy” Copeland Sesko, 86, of Chattanooga, passed away on May 2, 2020 at her family home. Born on October 15, 1933 in Rome Georgia, she was preceded in death by her parents, Ira B. (Hootus) and Elise Smith Copeland, her brother Charles R.Copeland and daughter Mimi Smith Dawson Mackie. Iris was known professionally as “Judy.” She started her career at Combustion and TVA, later becoming a Registered Professional Engineer at Betts Engineering Co., Inc., and  Hensley-Schmidt, Inc. She retired from the City of Chattanooga Public Works Department, handling federal (Housing and Urban Development) projects.  She was a member of the Chattanooga Engineers Club (CEC) being the first woman to serve as general chairman of Chattanooga Engineers Week. She was on that committee for 25 years and received the 1983 Phillip Sutton People to People Award. She was a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) as well as the Tennessee Association of Professional Engineers (TSPE) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). In 1984, she received the Order of the Engineer and was selected as Chattanooga Engineer of the Year in 1994. In 2017, Iris was inducted into the Chattanooga Public Works  Hall of Fame. Iris was the first woman registered as a Professional Land Surveyor in Tennessee. She organized the Chattanooga chapter of the Tennessee Association of Professional Surveyors (TAPS) and served as director for three years. She was co-founder of the Southeast Chapter of TAPS and received the TAPS Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. Iris was the only woman to hold both a Professional Engineer and Professional Land Surveyor license in Tennessee upon her retirement. Her personal pursuits included serving in all elected positions of the Greater Chattanooga Ceramic Association and the Chattanooga Quilt Guild. An awarded ceramicist and quilter, Iris donated many quilts to civic organizations for fundraising purposes and made lap robes for area Hospice organizations.  A lifetime seamstress, she also made over 700 cancer hats and turbans for the Mary Ellen Locher “Hats from the Heart”. She is survived by her husband of 62 years, Bill Sesko, both charter members of St. Jude Catholic Church, where they served as greeter and usher at the 8am mass for years. Iris is also survived by: her daughter and son-in-law Pete and Sharon Butler of Hixson and Son-in-law Wayne Mackie and wife Cindy of Key Largo, FL. Her grandchildren: Carolynn (Matt Pitroff) Phillips of Wilmington, NC; Hollis (Matt) Lamb of Chattanooga, TN; Maycie (Tyler) Hammons of Birchwood, TN; Christopher (Jamie) Dawson of Kernersville, NC; Jenny (Aaron) White of Atlanta, GA; Tim (Renee) Dorris of Brooklyn, NY and as the reward of a long life, great-grandchildren:  Liam & Grady Hammons, Perri Lamb, Jackson Kelly, Case Phillips, Drake & Mimi Dawson and Harper Dorris with 2 more on the way. Iris was a graduate of Chattanooga City High School, class of ‘51 and organized several of their reunions. She went to school nights for 15 years earning her associates degree from Chattanooga State (CSTCC) where she was the first graduate to endow a scholarship. She was also Co-founder of Chattmap in the 80’s, a forerunner of internet geographic information systems. Iris received her Bachelor's degree from UTC in 1990 in Engineering. She did this AFTER receiving her Professional Engineering license and working in the field because she valued education. Iris also paid off several college loans for her family members and even some colleagues who worked with her to promote their career advancement. As you can see, her family is proud of her accomplishments and her community benefited from her personal and professional endeavors. After her retirement, Iris had over 7000 volunteer hours at CHI Memorial Hixson. She also served as assistant registrar for Hamilton County elections for many years.  She was dearly loved by her family and left Chattanooga a better place. The family requests condolences, stories, videos or memories be posted to her Facebook account  A funeral mass will be held at Saint Jude Catholic Church at a later date. The family would like to thank Caris Hospice for the care we received.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Jude Catholic Church, 930 Ashland Terrace, Chattanooga, TN  37415.  Arrangements entrusted to Lane Funeral Home, 601 Ashland Terrace, Chattanooga, TN  37415.  (423) 877-3524

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