Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Mary Newt Copeland used to ride her bike to Ivey’s Grocery, charging her purchases and carrying them home in the bike basket to an unlocked house.
Her dad, Newt, and her mom, Mary Jo, were at work in Shawnee — Newt at the Employment Security Commission and Mary Jo at the Department of Human Services. After work, chances were they’d be off to a youth ball game, where Newt would work the gate and Mary Jo the concession stand. “I loved that,” Fallin said. “I still remember the pickles.”
At high noon on Monday, Mary Copeland Fallin will stand on the state Capitol steps and take the oath of office as Oklahoma’s first woman governor. It is a long way from her Tecumseh roots, but that upbringing will not be forgotten.
“I have very fond memories of the good quality of family life there,” she said in an interview with The Countywide & Sun last week. “I’ve talked frequently about the good values it brought me. It helped develop me into the leader I am today.”
A 1973 graduate of Tecumseh High School, Fallin was All-County in softball and also played basketball and volleyball. She was voted Friendliest in her class, and more indicative of her future success, served on the Student Council and as secretary-treasurer of the Senior Class.
Although Fallin says her parents “would be shocked” to see her inaugurated as governor, their examples were the starting point for her. She said she wanted to grow up to be a social worker, “taking care of people and helping them with their problems just like my mom did … For years (she) was a district supervisor for 17 counties for DHS in Oklahoma. I admired her work in helping foster children, abused children and those in need. Little did I know my dream would come true on a much bigger scale — statewide!”
Her parents were also “very involved” in the Tecumseh community, she said, “serving on boards and working for charities. I learned the importance of public service from them.” Newt was instrumental in establishing Tecumseh’s youth sports program and the Frontier Days celebration, among many other activities. Mary Jo was right alongside him when not leading Mary’s Girl Scout troop.
Then Newt decided to run for mayor. “He lost,” his daughter recalled. “He didn’t campaign; he just put his name out there.” The next time he ran, he won. Mary helped campaign, delivering fliers door to door. That may have been the valuable first lesson for a woman famous for her int