The Montclair State University community mourns the passing on January 3, 2013, of Cav. Joseph Coccia, Jr., a loyal friend and founder of the University’s Joseph and Elda Coccia Institute for the Italian Experience in America.
Coccia dedicated his life to preserving Italian American culture and heritage, and through the Institute and Coccia Foundation, he educated young people about Italian language, life, food, business and history. The Coccia Institute at Montclair State partners with national and state organizations to promote an understanding of the important links between Italy and America and to advance an interest in Italian and Italian American fields of study, both among scholars and the general public.
Coccia established excellent relationships with the Consulate General of Italy in New York and the Consulate of Italy in Newark and through the Institute hosted several diplomats at Montclair State.
Coccia Foundation, which he and his wife, Elda, began in 1994, also has supported numerous Italian programs at colleges throughout the country, as well as scholarship grants, study abroad programs, library Italian book collections and contributions to children’s charities, including the Special Olympics and Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Coccia, who was born in Newark in 1929 to Italian immigrant parents, served in Japan and Korea for the U.S. Army, and later opened a real estate firm in Kearny. Among his numerous honors, Coccia received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Montclair State, served as Grand Marshal for numerous Columbus Day parades, as President of UNICO National and was inducted into the Italian American National Hall of Fame in 2008.
Coccia is survived by his wife Elda Coccia; their five children, Genevieve Nicastro, Elisa Coccia, Marisa Kettelhut, Joseph Coccia III and Christopher Coccia; 10 grandchildren; and four great grandchildren.
His funeral will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, January 7, at St. Philip the Apostle Church, 488 Saddle River Road, Saddlebrook, New Jersey. Entombment will follow at Holy Cross Chapel Mausoleum, North Arlington New Jersey.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made in his memory to Coccia Foundation, 23 Leswing Avenue, Saddlebrook, NJ 07663.