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People that “echo”- The Legacy of Anna Maria Coppola

This month Border Eco Magazine pays tribute to the legacy of Anna Maria Coppola for her lasting contributions to serving children and adults with disabilities in Santa Cruz County. 

Anna Maria Coppola lived her life in such a way that she will be remembered for her advocacy, kindness, and compassion towards individuals with disabilities. She found her purpose in life.

On Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, services were held for Anna Maria Coppola at Sacred Heart Church at 2 p.m. followed by a celebration of her life at the Santa Cruz Training Programs.

Relentlessly driven by love and compassion for a then underserved group in our community, Anna Maria and a handful of determined women established the Santa Cruz Training Programs “La Escuelita” in 1968 for people with disabilities. She was 43 at the time.

By then, she and her husband had brought eight children into this world, one of them was diagnosed with a learning disability. That sweet beady-eyed boy, “Nayito,” inspired her mission to ensure special needs people in Ambos Nogales would have a safe and warm place to be active and become productive members of society to the best of their abilities.

Forty-three years later that ongoing mission earned her a spot on prestigious Arizona’s 48 “Most Intriguing Women” list as part of the Arizona Centennial Legacy Project. While flattered she was not one to lavish in special recognition for what became her life’s passion. She didn’t attend the awards ceremony. She sent her eight very proud children instead.

Anna Maria or “Baby” as she was endearingly nicknamed, died on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. She was 94.

We remain “intrigued” by mom, especially now as people from all walks of life have come forth to express how she helped them on a personal level in a multitude of ways, materially, emotionally and spiritually. To say she was giving is an understatement.

Until the end, Anna Maria remained on the board of directors of the Santa Cruz Training Programs, a pillar of wisdom and a guiding light to keep the course of serving SCTP participants whom, she was convinced, earned their angel wings the moment they were conceived. What a noble mission indeed for those who carry on her legacy.

Anna Maria was an active member of the Catholic Daughters of America, the Altrusa Club, and was a member of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church Finance Committee. Among her other jobs, she worked for U.S. Customs Service and Citizens Utilities Co.

She was born Anna Maria Bonorand on Oct. 21, 1924, in Nogales to Arcelia and Manuel Bonorand, who was a local customs broker.

She was predeceased in 2005 by her husband of 59 years, Leonardo B. Coppola. She is survived by her daughters Ana Patricia (David) Kemp; Michele Cecilia (Fred) Mahler; Maria Elena (Miguel) Dominguez and Marina Berta (Thomas) Galhouse; sons Leonardo Manuel Coppola; Jose Antonio (Cheri) Coppola; Ygnacio Arturo (Jane) Coppola and Manuel C. Coppola (Irene); brother Manuel Ernesto Bonorand; 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.  

Anna Maria Coppola

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