(photo by Jill Bock, Staff)
Citing his 38 years of service to the city and the county in the Missouri Legislature, city and county officials along with friends and family paid tribute to Fred E. "Gene" Copeland. As part of the honor, the new addition to the New Madrid Memorial Library was dedicated to Copeland.
New Madrid County Library Executive Director Tom Sadler pointed out the long association of the Copeland family with the New Madrid library branch. Copeland's parents donated the land for the town's library.
When the library was completed in 1946, Sadler said it filled the community's needs but over time had become cramped and more space was needed. In 2000 work began to expand the library. The building was gutted, land purchased by the city of New Madrid for expanded parking and renovations completed by 2001.
"It is such a difference," said Sadler, pointing to the tall stacks that now fill the expanded facility. "To compare the old library to this facility would be like night and day."
Both New Madrid County Commissioner Sam Pikey and Mayor Mark Baker pointed out the impact Copeland had in the Legislature during his tenure. Copeland saw service under six Missouri governors including Warren E. Hearnes, who was among those attending the dedication, along with his wife, Betty Hearnes, a former legislator.
Prior to presenting Copeland with an engraved plaque, Baker stated those involved in public service don't expect payment for their assistance to their constituents. But what "you always like to hear is a sincere thank you from the people you represent," he added.
"New Madrid is my home and always will be," said Copeland, as he received a warm-round of applause from the audience. He said he still enjoys driving the streets and roads in the area, recalling the people, events and his involvement through service as the local representative.
Copeland added he was pleased that he and his family would be associated with a building that would "touch future generations as children come here for fun and learning. From the bottom of my heart, this honor is so great for me, my children and especially for my grandchildren."