Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

October 7, 2013

Service for Coburn salutes ‘Life of a public servant’

PRINCETON — Family members and friends gathered in the sanctuary of the Princeton Church of God Sunday afternoon for the home-going service of Joe Coburn.

“He was just a clip-on tie guy — an ordinary guy,” Pastor Sam Cox said. Cox is pastor of Sun Valley Baptist Church, and lived across the street from Coburn for the past 12 years. “Joe was the kind of guy that after you got to know him, you thank God that you did. He was not a perfect man. He was a good man.”

Coburn, 81, died late Wednesday night after a long battle with cancer. Cox was not his pastor, but Coburn’s family asked Cox to be part of the funeral service.

“When I was talking to the family last night at the visitation, I mentioned that Joe was the glue that held this family together, but (his grandson) Joey corrected me and said he is Super Glue,” Cox said. “He was a good neighbor.”

Coburn’s son-in-law, Don Maclay, delivered the eulogy. He said that he didn’t think of his father-in-law as being a politician. “He liked people,” Maclay said. “He could bring millions of dollars into Mercer County for a water system, but he cared more about the people who got the water. The common thread of Joe was that he loved helping people.”

Maclay also said that his father-in-law enjoyed the fellowship of a good meal. “He didn’t eat so much as he held court,” Maclay said. He said that so many people visited Coburn when the family was eating at a restaurant, that he asked his wife Karen: “Is he like the godfather of Mercer County?

“He was a compassionate man,” Maclay said. “Very humble.”

There were two selections of recorded music played during the service — “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Beulah Land.”

“Joe Coburn is not longing for Beulah Land any more. He’s already there,” the Reverend Charles Drake, pastor of Athens Baptist Church said. Drake used scripture to structure his remarks, but also remarked about the incredible amount of time he gave to his church and his community. “He lived the life of a public servant,” Drake said.

Drake recalled a recent visit he had when Coburn was resting. He said that he ended the visit with prayer, not knowing if his words were heard. He said that Coburn opened his eyes and said simply: “Good prayer. Thank you.”

“Oh, we’re going to miss Joe,” Drake said at the conclusion of the service.

— Contact Bill Archer at

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