The Rock 'n' Roll Grandpa
Already at age 12, he was a broadcasting nut. He bought a two-watt transmitter, built a mini-radio station in his basement in East Orange, N.J., and began broadcasting, rock 'n' roll and personal musings throughout the town. His friends loved it.
Gerard Coppola's love of broadcasting and music was the central thread of his life. Mr. Coppola, who was also known as Rod and JRod, was antenna engineer for WNET, Channel 13, on the 110th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower. His Web site ‹ NJPeople.com/jrod ‹ lives on and features his doleful songs. Not only did he mix the songs, but he sang and played all the instruments ‹ guitar, bass, keyboards and drums.
"Gerard was a dreamer," said his sister, Cynthia. "These are the people who are visionaries, who are risk-takers. They dare to listen to their own voices."
As a teenager, he began playing in rock bands and writing songs. At family gatherings, everyone wanted to hear him tell stories. "People sought him out," his sister said. "He had a gift. He was like the Pied Piper of the family."
At home, he sought to bring his love of music to his wife, Alice, and their four daughters, Angeline, 20, Angela, 19, Delinda, 15, and Alison, 8. He would have turned 47 today.
"When his first grandson, Andre, was born five months ago," his sister said, "he came to my house and said, 'Cindy, I can't wait for you to see him. He's a gorgeous baby.' He said, 'I'm going to be such a cool grandfather.' "
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 12, 2001.
Gerard Coppola, 46, a natural talent
Rod Coppola loved his family, his job at WNET-TV, music, and, especially, his baby grandson just born in May.
"He was very excited about becoming a grandfather," his sister, Cynthia Hamburger, said yesterday. "He called me and said, 'Wait until you see the baby. He's beautiful.'"
Mr. Coppola vowed to be "such a cool grandfather," Hamburger recalled. "He didn't have a problem with being a young grandfather," she said. "It's too bad that Andre won't get to know this wonderful grandfather now."
Gerard "Rod" Coppola, 46, of New Providence, died inside the World Trade Center following the Sept. 11 terrorists' attacks. He worked on the 101st floor of One World Trade Center, where many television and radio stations had transmitting equipment, Hamburger said.
Mr. Coppola's wife, Alice, and other family members remember him as a warm, outgoing man who had a natural talent for music, radio and "fixing anything." As a child, he used to bring the neighborhood children to his East Orange home, where he would broadcast from a rudimentary radio station, his sister said.
As an adult, Mr. Coppola produced a political show for ham radio audiences.
He was very patriotic. "There's almost an irony that this is the way he died, because my brother loved this country and was distressed sometimes at the lack of patriotism and lack of respect of public office," she said.
"When we see all the flags out now, we think this would make him happy. It makes us look at each other differently."
The youngest of three children, Mr. Coppola was a natural-born entertainer who liked to tell a story and make people laugh. And he was always considered the "baby brother," even after he became a grandfather, she said.
"He was open-hearted and funny," his wife said through tears.
Mr. Coppola was a broadcast engineer for WNET. He attended Brookdale Community College in Lincroft.
Besides his wife, sister and grandson, Mr. Coppola is survived by four daughters, Angela, Alison, Angeline Li and DeLinda Li; his father, George J. Coppola Sr.; a brother, George J. Coppola Jr.; a niece and two nephews.
Profile by Debra Dowling published in THE STAR-LEDGER.