We are mourning the loss of our friend and trustee Mr. Ralph Coppola ‘66. He passed away at his home on December 28. Mr. Coppola gave much credit to the Jesuit education he received at Canisius High School as a guiding influence for his life. He demonstrated his support for the school in many ways over the years, including his service on the board of trustees at the time of his death.
The article below, penned by Mr. Coppola, originally appeared in the spring 2017 issue of “Canisius High School Today” magazine. In the article Mr. Coppola shares his story of attending Canisius as a promise to his late father, and his strong bonds with his own sons.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday, January 3, at St. Michael's Church, 651 Washington Street, Buffalo at 2:00. Click here for Mr. Coppola’s obituary.
Fathers and Sons, by Ralph Coppola ‘66
I grew up in Orchard Park, when it was a small village. I was one of two young men from OP who came through the blue doors for the first time as a student in 1962. I begged my mother to let me attend Orchard Park High School, which was about eight doors from our home, and the place where, of course, all my friends were going! For reasons I later understood and greatly appreciated, my mother would have no part of any school for me but Canisius High School. We could not afford the $200 tuition, I'll shortly explain why, so CHS awarded me a Treasurer’s Scholarship, which was a nice way of saying "financial aid.” CHS looked out for me, way back in 1962.
I played basketball and baseball, graduated in 1966, and went on to Canisius College. I received a degree in accounting, and from there I went on to the University at Buffalo Law School, and got my law degree in 1974.
Fast forward a few years after some accounting and management positions, in 1982 a former partner and I started a company we named Innovative Concepts in Entertainment, which the arcade game industry now knows as ICE. Looking back on my own career, after a four-year degree in accounting and a law degree, I started a company that designs and manufactures arcade games. Not exactly what one may call a normal career path, but 35 years later, I'm proud of what our people have accomplished—all 250 of them. ICE is the largest manufacturer of arcade games in the USA, the men and women who run our business are talented, loyal and motivated.
The management group includes my two sons, Joe ‘89 and Daniel, and also Drew Krouse, whose son is Tyler ‘17. Cyclone, DOND, AB, GB, NBA HOOPS, NFL 2 Minute Drill and many other ICE games including “Bubble Hockey” all originated in some way at CHS in 1962.
My family’s relationship with CHS began with my father, who played three sports alongside a young man who went on to become a Jesuit, and eventually the prefect of discipline at CHS. That was Fr. John Sturm, S.J. ‘35 and he was a CHS legend.
My father, Joseph, graduated in 1935. Thirty-one years later, I graduated in 1966. My son Joe graduated in 1989. Last spring our grandson Ryan ‘16 made us very proud by becoming the fourth generation Coppola to graduate.
My father passed away when I was seven years old. A deadly heart condition took his life at age 37, leaving behind a wife and six children. My mother insisted I attend CHS as a tribute to my father. Despite overwhelming financial odds, that was his wish. At various times and at various events, different male figures would play surrogate father for me. It started with an uncle who made sure I had a basketball hoop installed on my garage for my first communion. My Little League baseball coach took me under his wing to try to make me feel like every other kid on the team. In my sophomore year at CHS, my JV basketball coach, Mr. Bob O'Connor, stayed after practice almost every day and spent a great deal of time with me. I didn't realize it at the time, but I certainly understood years later that each of these thoughtful and caring people did their part to fill an obvious void in my life. But, I would have given almost anything to have my real father at my side.
My story is not a "poor me" story though, although I do recall a stretch in my teens when I often would cry myself to sleep wondering "why me?” With God's help, I turned the physical absence of my father into something much more positive. I came to believe that not only was my father NOT absent in my life, but rather he was "with me" at ALL times, that he helped me with my struggles and he shared in my joys and accomplishments. I chuckle a bit when I think maybe there were times when my sons would have preferred I was NOT there. We'll refer to those as "teaching moments". I think my spiritual relationship with my father has helped me to develop the relationship I am very fortunate to have with my sons. Through their teenage years, I never tried to be their "best buddy.” I always tried to be a positive influence on their decision-making. Joe and Daniel are fantastic husbands, great siblings and fathers, and they are incredible sons.
Pictured above: Ralph Coppola '66 in Alumni Hall in 2017 with sons Joe '89 (left) and Dan.