Copland honored with Grand Marshall
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Steve Copland has been selected as the 2021 Old Timers’ Day Grand Marshal.
For the second time, an honor was bestowed upon Steve Copland, but like the first time, he had to be surprised with it.
Last week, the Madera Sunrise Rotary, in conjunction with the Madera Downtown Association, named Copland the Old Timers’ Day Grand Marshall and did it in surprising fashion.
“I sat down before the meeting started,” he said. “They asked me to move with my back to the door. I had no idea my kids and my staff was there.”
Copland’s nephew, Will Oliver, caught the whole scene on video when it was announced Copland was the Grand Marshall and his reaction was humbling.
“I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
He said if his name had been nominated, he would have excluded himself.
“They bushwhacked me on that, for sure.,” he said.
Jon and Donna Barsotti were named the Old Timers’ Day King and Queen.
“They are very worthy of it,” Copland said.
Four years ago, Copland was a recipient of the Madera Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award and he was surprised by Madera Chamber of Commerce CEO Debi Bray and was forced to accept the award by his daughter, Tricia Protzman.
“Debi walked in and my daughter, Tricia, was right behind her,” Copland said in 2017. “I thought what a coincidence. Debi told me I me I was selected for the Lifetime Achievement Award. I told Debi that I want to humbly and respectfully decline. I don’t feel comfortable on the stage. I want to do things behind the scenes. Debi said, ‘I knew you were going to say that. That’s why I brought Tricia. Tricia, talk to your dad.’ Tricia said that we were going to do this whether you want to do this or not. I finally said, all right. They had both of my arms behind my back.”
Like he said in 2017, Copland was humbled by the recognition and doesn’t think he does anything extra to deserve it.
“I really don’t know. I try to give to the community as much as I can,” he said. “I used to embarrass my kids by picking up litter on the street. I don’t do anything for recognition. I just like to help behind the scenes. That’s where I’m most comfortable — anonymous. We want to do what we think is right and what would be a benefit for the community as a whole without an attaboy.”
Copland is a lifelong Madera resident. He graduated from Madera High School and played on the football team. He began working at 16-years-old for the Aragon Hotel. From there, he worked at St. Agnes Hospital before getting a job at an insurance company in Fresno.
He began working at his father’s insurance company, Seabury, Copland & Anderson in 1977 and became a partner in 1978. Copland’s father, John, started the company with Bill Seabury on Jan. 1, 1939.
“They formed a partnership on a 3X5 card that read, ‘I promise to be a good partner to Bill Seabury’ and Bill wrote, ‘I promise to be a good partner with Johnny Copland.’ They exchanged cards and ran it that way ever since,” Copland said in a 2017 interview.
The old partners used to settle differences in the alley behind the business.
“When they had disagreements, they had two pair of boxing gloves,” Copland said. “They went to the back alley and the first one that fell down, lost. My dad brought these home and there were two sets. My brothers and I would box with them. The dog eventually got to the other set. That’s how they settled disputes in those days. It was a lot simpler in those days.”
Four years later, Copland is semi-retired and heads to the office about three or four times a week. His son, John, is a partner with the insurance agency.
“We have clients that are in the fourth generation,” Copland said. “They want to talk to me. I am proud of that that we’re still here. We have the integrity and reputation that we’re square shooters. That, I’m proud of. Our business was started in 1939 and we’re still plugging along.”
Copland knows his days are coming and is looking forward to retiring. He will spend his retirement at his cabin or just driving around the country.
“The business is changing and that’s one of the reasons I need to get out of the way. I need to retire because the changes are coming too fast. It’s hard for an old dog like me to learn new tricks. Everything is in the cloud. I don’t understand it.
“I’ve spent more time than ever in a cabin in a community called Sugar Pine. I’ve been sneaking up there on a Friday and coming back on Monday. I still like to take road trips. It’s relaxing to me.”
Copland is a member of the Madera Elks Lodge and the Madera Downtown Association.
His daughter is the assistant superintendent of human resources at the Madera County Superintendent of Schools and his other daughter, Christina, is a doctor on the East Coast. He is hopeful all three will be with him during the parade.
“I’m sure my kids get a kick out of it,” Copland said. “I’m so proud of my kids. I’m very proud of what they have become. They are good people. I hope they follow in my footsteps, which they are doing.”
He is humbled by the award, but said he is most comfortable behind the scenes.
“I’m honored, but I can’t say that I feel deserving of it. I’m grateful to the community and the powers that be that have appointed me Grand Marshall. I feel uneasy. I don’t like the spotlight. Things like this makes me want to go under the table.”