Anna Maria Coppola, who changed the lives of numerous community members by co-founding the Santa Cruz Training Programs for people with developmental disabilities in 1968, died at home in Nogales on Sept. 4 after a brief illness. She was 94.
Coppola’s work with children and adults through SCTP earned her widespread praise and recognition, which included being named one of Arizona's 48 "Most Intriguing Women" as part of the state’s centennial celebration in 2012. She shared the distinction with such luminaries as retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Grammy-winning recording artist Linda Ronstadt and Jane Dee Hull, the first woman to be elected governor of Arizona.
"If there was ever a saint from Nogales, Anna Maria Coppola is the one," said James "Buck" Clark, former superintendent of schools in Nogales and SCTP board member, after the recognition was announced in January 2012.
Coppola’s son Leonardo was the inspiration for the training programs after he was diagnosed with a learning disability as a young boy and the closest state facility for special needs children was in Coolidge, 130 miles away. It prompted her to work with other local women, including Carmelita Lineiro, Matilde Proto, Helen Pierson and Francis Sainz, to develop a program so families could keep their children close to home.
Over the years, SCTP expanded to provide residential services, as well as training in a variety of vocational settings. A gala event last October at the program’s home on La Castellana Drive in Nogales celebrated the organization’s five decades of service.
Coppola was born Anna Maria Bonorand on Oct. 21, 1924 in Nogales to Arcelia and Manuel Bonorand, who was a local customs broker.
Speaking in 2014 on the occasion of her 90th birthday celebration, Coppola reflected on her nine decades of life, saying: “It’s really about how you make use of your time, making each day really worthwhile.”
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.
Her son Manuel C. Coppola is publisher of the Nogales International.
Services are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to Santa Cruz Training Programs, P.O. Box 638, Nogales, AZ 85628.