MORNINGSIDE love birds, Francesco, (93), and Antonietta, (89), Coppola, celebrated an amazing 70 years of marriage on 2 February.
The couple met as teenagers while living in Aquilonia, Italy.
“Francesco met me outside my home and asked me if he could have a match for his cigarette. I told him I didn’t smoke, but it was just his way of introducing himself. He didn’t stay long because my dad was watching, and he thought I was too young to have a boyfriend!” said Antonietta.
It was love at first sight, but as Antonietta was 15 and Francesco 19, her parents were very strict and it was difficult to meet, although he kept popping up everywhere she went! The war had started and Francesco was called up, and only after the end of the war did they start courting for around five years. They got engaged, and three months later on 2 February 1948, they married.
The couple only completed junior school because in those days the high school was very far from home, so the custom was to learn a trade. Francesco started learning to be a cabinet maker when he was nine years old, while Antonietta says she learnt to knit on a machine, and from the age of 12 she did chores such as cooking, cleaning and looking after her siblings. She never went out to work.
Francesco started his own cabinet making business before their marriage and when they emigrated to South Africa, he and his brothers started Coppola Bros, and became the leaders in custom made furniture.
Francesco and Antonietta were blessed with five children. The couple now has 12 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Unfortunately their son, Vito, passed away at the age of 59 from cancer.
Francesco enjoyed hunting as a younger man and being a good shot, often brought home lots of venison for the freezer. He was also a dab hand at making homemade pork sausages and explains that every year he would buy a pig and make sausages! The couple have always enjoyed playing cards together, an activity they still enjoy, along with cooking. Antonietta has also always enjoyed knitting.
The couple enjoyed their anniversary on Friday at home, preparing for their celebratory lunch on 3 February with family and friends, which included lots of Italian food, music, wine and dancing. Antonietta insisted on making most of the food herself as she still does all her own cooking.
“We are very excited and happy to have celebrated our 70th wedding anniversary as we always hoped we would get to this milestone. Every year we say ‘now we look forward to the next year’!” said Antonietta.
“My mom and dad are full of admiration for each other. Their whole life is each other and their family. My dad was, and is, a dedicated family man and never went to pubs, and mom was, and is, a very organised, hard working homemaker. They live for their family and everything they do revolves around their family. They have always strived to live and be together as long as God wills,” said daughter, Eleonora Alves.
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