Bill “Doc” Copeland, who has been a fixture in Hillsville for the past 49 years, has been tabbed Citizen of the Month for July by Laurel Fork Councilman Greg Yonce during the July 14 town council meeting.
Copeland, his wife, Bobbie, and their three daughters came to Hillsville in 1965 and stayed despite a warning from a fellow pharmacist that the town “rolls up the sidewalks at 6 p.m.” He became the owner of Carroll Drug that year and, despite a fire that destroyed the business just two years later, forcing him to rebuild, turned the business into a popular gathering place for residents of Hillsville.
The Danville native attended VPI Extension in 1950, while also being enrolled at the Medical College of Virginia. In 1953, Copeland enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served two years in Jacksonville, Fla., for two years before transferring to the 6th Marine Corps, where he served until 1957. He completed his service with a rank of First Class Corpsman. Copeland returned to school and graduated in 1960, receiving the Kappa Psi Key Man Award. He and Bobbie, who were married in 1951, returned to Danville, where Copeland worked at Lea’s Drug Store before moving to Hillsville.
“Carroll Drug was a full-service pharmacy, offering everything from home health items to a full-service cosmetic department, Hallmark cards, the first Panama Jack distributor in the area, free gift wrap and the first elevator in town. (Copeland) was the first to install a prescription drop box. Too bad he didn’t patent it,” said Yonce.
“But the one thing everyone seems to recall about Carroll Drug was the soda fountain,” continued Yonce. “The soda fountain was the meeting place for morning coffee clubs, birthday parties, lunch dates and late afternoon milkshakes and hot dogs. I had my first cup of coffee there during my early days as a real estate agent. I was told if you want to know who is looking to buy or sell, go sit at Carroll Drug and listen to what the people in there are talking about.”
“(Copeland) has filled over one million prescriptions and made numerous after-hour trips, including nights, holidays and weekends, to ensure his customers were taken care of. He has probably done this for most of us here tonight,” added Yonce.
In the 1970s, Congressman Dan Daniels, who Copeland delivered papers to as a youth, appointed him to form the Carroll County Recreation Program. He was also instrumental in bringing the first fast-food restaurant, Druther’s, to Hillsville.
Copeland has always been civic-minded, noted Yonce. He served on Hillsville Town Council, is a life-long member of the Virginia Jaycees, is twice a recipient of the Rotary International Paul Harris Award, and a recent recipient of the William Skelton Award. He is a member of the Twin County Regional Hospital Foundation and, being an avid walker, has been involved with the Carroll Wellness Center. Copeland is also a member of the First United Methodist Church, and has served as treasurer and on numerous committees.
He was named president of the Virginia Pharmaceutical Association in 1978, named Virginia Pharmacist of the Year, and was the recipient of the prestigious Bowl of Hygeia Award, which is given by Wyeth Laboratories to pharmacists who have provided outstanding community service.
“I find it fitting that Bill Copeland receive the Citizen of the Month for July, as this is the month that Bill is retiring,” said Yonce. “Although he will no longer be seen behind the counter at Blue Ridge Pharmacy, he will still be a member of this little town that rolls up the sidewalks at 6 p.m., and will still be the community-minded person that he has been for almost 50 years.”
Michael Howlett can be contacted at 276-728-7311 or on Twitter@MikeEHowlett