It is not an easy to sum up the life of such a great man as Kenneth Cope in just a few words.
However, Kenneth lived his life defined by a just a few worlds.
A word such as passion springs to mind when I think about Kenneth, for he was passionate about so many things in his life. His passion for his family was ever-apparent as he was seldom seen around town without either his lovely wife Anne, or one of his four children: Mike, Randy, Nancy and Brenda, or later in life his grandchildren. You would ask Kenneth what his most important possession would be and he wouldn’t hesitate to say his family. He was proud to be called a Family Man.
He was passionate about his newspaper business of which he was part of for nearly all his life. You could say he married into the business as his father-in-law Howard Bush owned the Neosho Daily News. Kenneth began in advertising and later became publisher following Mr. Bush’s death in 1969. Following his stint as Neosho Daily Publisher, he became a senior official in the American Publishing Company and later Liberty Publishing Company. His handprint is on literally hundreds of newspapers as he helped purchase many publications. His experience and expertise were sought by dozens of newspaper professionals as his knowledge was admired by so many. He was honored for his newspaper passion by being inducted into the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame in 2004.
He was passionate about running. His wife referred to him as “The Runner” in her many columns published in the Neosho Daily News. Running became more than a hobby for him. The more he ran, the more he enjoyed it. He began with short distances then evolved into longer and longer distances, until he was training for marathons – 26.2 miles. In addition to his many competitive marathons, he ran in the prestigious Boston Marathon on five different occasions. His passion rubbed off on his son Mike as he too ran in Boston.
Running may be the one defining aspects of Ken’s life. For he took to life as a long-distance race. He once told me that life is not a sprint, but a long-distance race. A race that has many ups and downs. A race that will be easy at times, but then there will be times when you will feel like you have run against a brick wall. It is only then, said Ken, that you have to run through the wall and never quit. He tackled life that way.
Kenneth was passionate about his home-town of Neosho. From 1962 to 1964 Kenneth was major of Neosho, making him at that time, Neosho’s youngest mayor. He was influential in many city and county projects, including the establishment of Crowder College in 1963. He loved Neosho with all his heart and was a part of many boards and commissions.
But most of all, Kenneth was passionate about his faith. His family was never home on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights as they were at church worshiping. Even when his travels would take him away from his home congregation, he would find a local Church of Christ and worship. His son Mike once said that he never knew how the Wizard of Oz ended until his adult life because they were always in church when the movie would annually air on TV on Sunday nights.
He was a longtime elder of the Rocketdyne Road Church of Christ and he was so involved in every aspect of the congregation, especially when it came to things of a spiritual nature. He took several trips to the Ukraine as Rocketdyne Road sponsored missionaries there. He cared deeply about the spiritual well-being and condition of every member of his beloved congregation. The cliché “he put others in front of him” was his philosophy and mantra in life.
To know Kenneth Cope was to know he was a man of passion, of integrity, of devotion, of determination, of countless abilities, and of love. Yes, Kenneth Cope was not ashamed or embarrassed to tell you that he loved you. For he admired, cherished and loved thousands of people. That is why those of us who knew Kenneth Cope are so much better today. Because he gave us all a piece of him which is his passion and his love.
There are so many experiences I can go on and on about involving my time with Kenneth. There have been many men who have be influential in my life. But the two that stand out above all of them are my father Bill Ball and Kenneth Cope. I think that is pretty good company.
I have a painting in my office that was done by Ken. I paid a buck 25 for it at their auction sometime ago. But now, its value to me has multiplied a million-fold. It is a landscape of a wooden bridge over a stream. Now when I look it I will always see Ken walking across it being greeted by hundreds on the other side. What a fitting end to a well-lived life and a wonderful beginning to life forever more.
- Buzz Ball is a former Neosho Daily News editor and reporter. He is currently manager of Neosho Cinema 6.