MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Douglas E. Copenhaver Jr. said he has received 50 pages of emails, most from people begging for help with drug and alcohol problems since news of his 22-year-old son's death last weekend spread in the community.
"There's a lot of people out there hurting ... a lot of people," the Berkeley County Council member said before a memorial service for his son, Douglas S. Copenhaver began Wednesday night at The Living Room.
Copenhaver, of Hedgesville, W.Va., died Friday night after the sport utility vehicle he was driving crashed into a utility pole at the intersection of Edwin Miller Boulevard and District Way near Martinsburg after being stopped minutes earlier by police for having defective equipment.
An estimated crowd of more than 700, including a number of community leaders and elected officials attended the celebration of life service for Copenhaver, who was remembered as a loving and passionate person, but also one who recognized that he had problems.
A cousin of the deceased told those gathered at the church that Copenhaver revealed to her amid a previous hospital visit that he hated the person he had become but "knew he was the only one who could fix himself."
"It's starts with depression and that's how my son started with it," Copenhaver said before the service.
Copenhaver said he and his wife, Jackie Copenhaver, now believe that incarceration is not the solution to helping people overcome their drug problems.
"All it does is increase their problems," Copenhaver said. "We need to be able to find a way to help them. We need to find a way to get them as much help as possible and get them going (in the right direction)."
"We got to open up to these people... we pushed our son away because we couldn't tolerate it anymore. We wanted to (give) the toughest love possible. And I can honestly tell you I wish we could have those last two weeks back."
In wake of his son's death, Copenhaver says he feels empowered to do more to raise the issue of drug use in the community.
"I feel my son (tapping on my shoulder and saying) 'what are you going to do about it,'" Copenhaver said.
The Copenhavers' invited the public, along with community leaders and elected officials, to attend Wednesday's service to raise awareness of drug use issues in the community.
Copenhaver has welcomed anyone who shares his family's concerns about the drug and alcohol use in the community to contact him.