Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 3, 2014

Beloved Princeton leader Dick Copeland was 89

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — One of Princeton’s most beloved community leaders, Dick Copeland, passed away at Princeton Community Hospital on Saturday night. He was 89.

Copeland was a native of Monroe County, a graduate of Peterstown High School and Bluefield Business College. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1944 and served aboard the U.S.S. Vestal, a repair ship that survived Pearl Harbor.

After the war, he worked for a time at First National Bank of Peterstown, but in 1952, he joined Grady Carper in Mercer General Insurance. Together, Carper and Copeland built Oakwood Motor Court in time for the opening of the West Virginia Turnpike. He built the Sherwood Apartments in 1968, and continued to enjoy success in business.

But he also enjoyed life. He was one of the charter members of the Princeton Jaycees, was absolutely committed in every way possible to the Princeton Rotary Club that he joined in 1948 and he truly enjoyed his membership in the “10 Cent Millionaire Club.”

“He was as regular as clockwork,” Ed Gilger said of Copeland’s visits to the 10 Cent Millionaire Club’s “Coffee Table.” “He would come in at 10 a.m., every day, and that would give him something to talk about.

“Dick was one of the first people that I met when I came to Princeton in 1965,” Gilger said. “He had been in good health up until about the last eight weeks. He was a great guy and generous to a fault. He’s going to be a hard man to replace.”

Copeland was active on many fronts in the community. He was proud of using his motor home to chauffeur dignitaries visiting the community, but also freely donated his time to transport a youth group from Scott Street Baptist Church in Bluefield to participate in an annual service honoring African American soldiers who were killed in Saltville, Va., during the American Civil War.

In 1990, he joined forces with Barbara Hawkins and other community leaders in Princeton in an effort to transform the lot where King’s Gallery had been into a park complete with a stage and concession stand. In August of 2012, the community recognized Copeland’s efforts by naming the site, Dick Copeland Town Square.

“Dick was just a great person,” Dewey Russell said. “He was a benevolent person who had a heart as big as all outdoors. Dick wanted everybody to be his friend. He was just an amazing person.”

Copeland loved to visit with students in schools and share stories about his experiences aboard the Vestal. Until recent years, he traveled annually to ship reunions, but he also attended almost every important gathering in Princeton.

“Dick was faithful to everything he did,” Russell said.

Jim Holland, general manager of the Princeton Baseball Club, said that Copeland has had box seats for all of the 22 years that Holland has been with the club. In addition to his support of the ball club, Holland said that he enjoyed talking with Copeland about World War II.

“My dad also served in World War II, and talking with Dick about his experiences reminded me of my dad,” Holland said.

Copeland is survived by his three sisters and their families. Funeral arrangements will be announced by Seaver Funeral Home in Princeton.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com