A Vicksburg resident, Richard Coppes, turns 90 this month. He grew up in the small town of Fremont, Indiana and enlisted in the Navy in 1944. He attended Radio School at the University of Chicago. He rode the train to his first assignment at the Philadelphia Naval Base where he was assigned to Mess Cooking—cleaning, drying and greasing 500 pie pans daily. He was then shipped to Washington, DC, learning to work with water soluble inks. There he stayed at the YMCA near the White House for a few months. After that he shipped to Dahlgreen, Virginia, where he was stationed at a testing area built in World War I. He worked with a 4-man crew patrolling the Potomac River assigned to keep civilian shipping out of the area during testing.
After discharge, Coppes settled in California. There, he received a phone call from his steady girlfriend, Freddie, in Kalamazoo, who called to say if she came out to California they could get married. They married on March 2, 1947 at the Chapel of the Flowers, near Berkley, California. In 1957, they returned to Michigan to care for aging family members.
Richard worked at Consumer’s Power as a radio dispatcher and loved the job, sometimes working 24 hour shifts. Freddie worked at Michigan Bell.
In 1966, he bought an 80-90 acre farm in Vicksburg from Bob Morren’s father, to raise cattle. Richard bought bull calves at the auction in Battle Creek. He and Freddie worked in concert buying 50 calves annually, naming them and keeping a book on each. The calves were told after a year when they reached 1,200 pounds.
After that came the Red Durrocks, pigs. Richard also wandered into horse owning for a while with a Tennessee Walking horse named Gerry, and a pony, Buddy, which were gifts from Bill deBeck, a co-worker at Consumer’s Power. The feisty horses dampened the idea of having a very large herd.
During the time there was cattle in the barnyard, they purchased various parcels totaling 400 acres around the house. He retired from Consumer’s Power in 1987.
In 1966, Richard met Dr. Arle Schneider, a well-known vet in the area. They hit it off and remained lifelong friends. Since Richard had some background in music, Schneider invited him to join in the annual fund raiser the “Vicksburg Rotary Showboat,” a minstrel show highlighting a male chorus comprised of local volunteer thespians.
In 1974, he was invited to join the Vicksburg Rotary Club. He has served as the member representing the Electric Utilities classification since. Richard is the 7th longest standing member of the Club at 41 consecutive years. During that time, he served as President (1983-84); was awarded the Paul Harris Fellow Award in 1996; and named the Vicksburg Rotary Club Hero in 2011 for organizing and implementing the emergency hay lift convoys to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during the unprecedented drought of the early 1990s. That effort resulted in the survival of hundreds of cattle and farms in the UP.