Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Copeland, a giant in more ways than one

Do you ever just wake up thinking of someone?  I did today. I've been thinking about my friend Paul W. Copeland who was the engineer for college radio station at Northwest where I worked from 1978-1988, and before as a student in the 1973-'74 school years.

Paul Copeland
Brightleaf Amateur Radio Club, Greenville, NC

So I did a google search, and found that Paul had died in 2011.  I didn't even know.  He and his family had left Senatobia in 1984 when he took a job as a field engineer in Greenville, North Carolina.

I felt a mixture of sadness and richness. Not everyone has the chance to know someone like Paul.

A commanding figure at 6'4" and weighing an estimated 350, wore his black hair combed back and sported a long beard. You could usually find him clad in a long-sleeved shirt with overalls—year-round.

As a student, I was afraid to even ask him a question.  Soon after I got to know him, that gruffness disappeared. He taught me a little about refinishing antiques, and even talked me into doing some tombstone rubbings.

Paul Copeland Rocketeer Photo 1975

Gruff, you say?  There was no bigger heart around. Paul and his wife Charlotte were foster parents to more than 21 children. They loved and cared for them, and when they left, they were sad.  He was also a former Boy Scout leader.  He looked so spiffy in his uniform.

Paul grew up in Memphis. He got his communications training in his ten years with the U.S. Navy.  While he was at Northwest he was instrumental in writing and receiving numerous telecommunications grants. He kept the equipment fine tuned and was willing to work on air, weekends, sign on at 6 a.m. or sign off at midnight.

His little shop at the end of our hall was always a mess.  Test equipment hummed and lights blinked.When Paul talked about amps and meters and frequencies, his eyes would light up the way most men do when they talk about women! We knew we better not go in that shop to straighten up.

A classically trained pianist, Paul's musical passion was playing with The Dixie Bluegrass Boys, and he was a member of the Memphis Area Bluegrass Association.  He did a few vocals and played the dobro.  In case you don't know what that is, it is a guitar shaped instrument with reflective metal in its body. When it was inverted with its concave surface facing up, it resonated.

One of my favorite memories involving Paul was going to hear him play at the Lucy Opera in Lucy, Tenn.  This was back in the mid-1970's.  When you drove up to what looked like an old school building, you saw people collected in small groups—picking'.  Some were old guys, some young (with long hair…it was the '70s), different music, different techniques.  Then you could go inside and hear the groups take the stage.

Since Paul went there every Saturday night, he recorded the sessions and we broadcast them on our public radio station.  How cool!

Another lifelong hobby for Paul was being a HAM radio operator. For more than 56 years he used the call sign K4KCS.

All of us who worked with Paul were enriched by his many interests. He left his wife Charlotte, three children and one grandchild.

"73 to you all, this is K4KCS signing off.

Paul Copeland drove in from North Carolina for a reunion of the Dixie Bluegrass Boys in recent years.
Commercial Appeal photo

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