Honoring a Heritage
All the houses on his block in the Elmora section of Elizabeth, N.J.. were well kept and aging in a graceful, uniform way. But Carlos DaCosta's property stood out, its individuality coming from a three-foot-high concrete and wrought iron fence constructed in the style of walls in Portugal.
That fence — the only one on that side of the street — was built by Mr. DaCosta and his father-in-law. Even after more than 30 years in the United States, Mr. DaCosta, who had been born in Portugal, showed off his native culture whenever possible. "There was a special place in his heart for Portugal," said his younger sister, Celeste. "He loved Portuguese culture, and Portuguese food." Mr. DaCosta, 41, regularly took friends to the Portuguese restaurants in Newark's Ironbound section. On special occasions, he would take Portuguese pastries to his office at the World Trade Center, where he was general manager of building services for the Port Authority.
Mr. DaCosta spoke only Portuguese at home to make sure that his two children learned the language, and he tried to make them aware of how big and diverse a world this is. "Carlos was fascinated by different cultures," said Antoinette Viana, a friend since high school. "He would take his kids anywhere that would seem different."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 21, 2001.
Carlos Da Costa, 41, curious and gentle
When he was 5 years old, Carlos Da Costa became intrigued with his sister's crying doll. So he took it apart, piece by piece.
"He dismantled my whole doll to figure it out," Celeste Matias recalled yesterday with a smile. She said her brother tried to put the doll back together again, with little luck.
"The eyes were not in the same place. There were pen marks all over her and she didn't cry anymore," Matias said. "I was very upset. I cried."
Their parents, Silverio and Ilda, stifled laughter while their 2-year-old daughter bawled and, finally, little Carlos, too, after realizing he hurt his sister.
His curiosity and gentle heart are what family and friends remember most about Mr. Da Costa, who died Sept. 11 in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Mr. Da Costa, 41, of Elizabeth, was an assistant general manager of Building Services for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, his sister said.
"He was my big brother. He was everything to me," she said.
Born in Canas De Senhorim, Portugal, Mr. Da Costa was 10 when his family moved to Elizabeth.
"He was funny. He was always willing to extend a hand to help someone. He adored being around children and he was an excellent father," Matias said.
He also spent a lot of time playing golf with his nephew, Francisco, often taking him to driving ranges, and coached baseball for the Elmora Youth League in Elizabeth.
"We deeply mourn our beloved son," his mother said yesterday. "May he rest in peace."
Mr. Da Costa graduated Elizabeth High School in 1980 and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., in 1984 with a degree in electrical engineering.
Besides his sister and parents, Mr. Da Costa is survived by two sons, Carlos, 13, and Daniel, 10; a nephew, Francisco, and a niece, Catarina.
A memorial Mass is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at Our Lady of Fatima Church, 403 Spring St., Elizabeth.
Memorial donations can be made to the Elmora Youth League, Elmora Avenue, Elizabeth or to the Children's Specialized Hospital Foundation, 150 New Providence Road, Mountainside, N.J. 07092-9979.
Profile by Debra Dowling published in THE STAR-LEDGER.