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Remembering Pungo’s Bud Coppedge: decoy carver, author, family man

Bud Coppedge is seen at his booth during a wildlife show held in Currituck County, N.C., in September. [File/The Princess Anne Independent News]

Bud Coppedge is seen at his booth during a wildlife show held in Currituck County, N.C., in September. [File/The Princess Anne Independent News]

BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE

PUNGO — Marshall “Bud” Coppedge raised a family, worked 36 years for the city, and was a longtime member of Charity United Methodist Church.

His legacy will also include his work as a carver, collector and seller of decoys whose passion and love of local history helped him write a sought-after book with a hunting friend.

Coppedge died on Monday, Dec. 28, at the age of 72. In addition to his wife, Julie Coppedge of Pungo, he is survived by daughter Jenifer Stone and son Jimmy Coppedge, four grandchildren, and his sister, Faye Walker.

Family and friends have praised Coppedge for his kindness, his company and his cooking. He cooked regularly for family, sometimes making favorites for different diners, friends said.

Jimmy Coppedge, 36, of Creeds, said his father valued family more than anything else.

“That’s what it was all about,” Jimmy Coppedge said. “Everything he did, he did for us.”

Jimmy Coppedge first went hunting as a boy, and he later took to carving, too. A full-sized canvasback decoy by Bud Coppedge is among his prized possession.

“Lately, he didn’t make the big decoys,” Jimmy Coppedge said. “It’s the last decoy I have from him.”

He hopes to keep the decoy business going.

In 1991, Bud Coppedge and his friend, Archie Johnson, published Gun Clubs & Decoys of Back Bay & Currituck Sound, a hardcover work packed with history and photographs of clubs and decoys.

Archie Johnson looks at decoys lining a memorial display for Bud Coppedge at the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum at the de Witt Cottage in the Oceanfront. Johnson and Coppedge are coauthors of Gun Clubs & Decoys of Back Bay & Currituck Sound. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

Archie Johnson looks at decoys lining a memorial display for Bud Coppedge at the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum at the de Witt Cottage in the Oceanfront. Johnson and Coppedge are coauthors of Gun Clubs & Decoys of Back Bay & Currituck Sound. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

Johnson, 93, said he and Coppedge became friends through the Back Bay Waterfowl Guild. Johnson, a photographer, shot images of decoys and artwork for the guild, including for programs for the Mid-Atlantic Waterfowl Festival that featured the work of Coppedge and others. 

The men connected through hunting, including at a border-hugging spot where the blind was in Virginia while the decoys were in North Carolina.

Coppedge became a regular at shows in Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia, selling his work and that of others. Johnson described his friend as an excellent businessman who was quiet, humorous and fair.

“I never heard him shout,” he said. “I never heard him cuss.” 

Johnson wanted to do a book, and he teamed with Coppedge for a project that took about 13 years to research. 

Johnson and other members of the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum at the Oceanfront said many hopeful carvers sought out Coppedge there when he carved on Tuesdays. Coppedge served on the museum advisory committee, and some of his work can be purchased there.

On the second floor of the museum, within the historic de Witt Cottage, a memorial for Coppedge rested on a table by a window. His photo was surrounded by pieces of his own carving work from a member’s collection, an obituary and a story about him that ran recently in the museum newsletter.

“When asked what the best decoy he carved is, he remains silent,” the story noted.

Ann Smith, a longtime Sandbridge resident who lives at Crescent Condos now, manages the museum’s gift shop. She recalled conversations about gardening and cooking, and how carvers carve at the museum, in part, to inspire those who might maintain the tradition.

“He was so soft-spoken,” she said. “He was just such a pleasant person to be with and talk with.” 

Downstairs, members of a group that meets on Wednesdays worked.

“I tell you, he was a good guy,” said Ed Morrison, 82, of Kings Grant. “A good decoy carver.”

“He was willing to share any knowledge,” said Herb Videll, 83, of Bay Lake Pines. “He wouldn’t push it on you. In fact, you wouldn’t know he knew anything if you didn’t ask.”

Coppedge will be remembered not only for his quiet mentorship, but in his family, his community, his book, and the examples of his artistry which remain.

Below, a detail on the bottom of a decoy made by Bud Coppedge. The decoy, from a private collection, was on display at the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum at the Oceanfront where Coppedge carved on Tuesdays. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

A detail on the bottom of a decoy made by Bud Coppedge. The decoy, from a private collection, was on display at the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum at the Oceanfront where Coppedge carved on Tuesdays. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]


© 2016 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

The Independent News

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