Ivy Leaf - Fall 2010
A Return to Her Roots
A little bit of family history and some creativity can take you pretty far; just ask Judy Coopey. The former Penn State Altoona student recently published her third book, Redfield Farm. It tells the story of a Quaker woman, Ann Redfield, whose brother Jesse gets her involved in the world of runaway slaves and secret routes to freedom. Ann, a proper young Quaker woman finds herself immersed in adventure, risk-taking, and out-and-out deception as she and Jesse defy the hated Fugitive Slave Law. Subsequent events change Ann's life forever and give her a purpose far beyond anything she ever imagined, as she confronts bigotry, fear, and hatred in the outside world and within her own family.
The idea for Redfield Farm stems from Coopey's own family line. Research into her family history led Coopey to the home of her Blackburn ancestors outside Pleasantville, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, in the mid-seventies. The owner of the property told her that the house was once a station on the Underground Railroad. Such claims are almost impossible to document, as people breaking the law didn't often keep records of their adventures. But the idea stuck and led to more research and the formulation of Redfield Farm.
Coopey was born and raised in Altoona and Williamsburg, Pennsylvania. She spent her first two years of college at Penn State Altoona, graduated from University Park, and later received her master's degree in education from the Arizona State University. She taught history and English in public schools for most of her career, all the while writing magazine articles and books.
In September, Coopey held a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Altoona, returning to her hometown.
What did you get out of beginning your college career at Penn State Altoona?
A good solid start at educating myself and friendships to last a lifetime.
How exciting is it for you to be able to do a book signing in the town where you were born and first began your higher education?
Very exciting. I have two hometowns: Altoona, where I was born and lived until I was eleven, then returned for the first two years of college, and Williamsburg, where I grew up under the influence of some of the finest teachers I've ever known.
It's wonderful to come back here and see how Penn State Altoona has grown, and to visit so many friends I met as an undergraduate. I loved the two years I spent at Penn State Altoona (1959-61). I learned so much in a sheltered environment that was just right for me at that time and place. I took with me broadened horizons, greater self-confidence, and the foundation for a rewarding life.
Of your three novels, do you have a favorite?
So far I like Redfield Farm best. Ann Redfield is a strong, sympathetic character, and I think the Underground Railroad was a courageous undertaking. I admire people who care enough about others to risk everything to help them and to bring about lasting change.
Do you have plans for another novel?
Yes, I have plans for quite a few. Right now I have rough drafts of two more novels — historical fiction — which are in various stages of revision. I hope to bring them out in the near future. Then I have a couple more in the planning stages. I started writing later in life, so I have to keep moving.
What would you like people to take away from your books?
I hope people take this from my books: the satisfaction of having read a good story well told.