A local veterans association awarded a community service plaque to Robert Earle-Coppola –– co-owner of the nearly century-old family paint business William Earle & Son in Newton.
Robert won the award March 31 after he and the Coppola clan volunteered to have a facade of the American Legion Nonantum Post 440 facing California Street painted in a slate-gray hue.
“We wanted to do anything we could to help,” Robert said. “We’re glad they are trying to do the best they can and keep the doors open.”
It all started when the Sons of the American Legion reached out to William Earle & Son for an estimate to paint an exterior wall of the building. As longtime members of the organization, Robert and his sisters and co-owners, Dominique and Nancy Earle-Coppola, immediately agreed to donate the job.
Al Cecchinelli, a longtime friend of the Coppola family and member of the American Legion, had nothing but good things to say about Robert’s recent community service award.
“There’s wonderful stories here about people doing great things, and we try to recognize them,” Cecchinelli said.
William Earle & Son is set to paint the exterior before Memorial Day.
The Coppolas said they have always been connected to the American Legion building through their grandfather, Robert Earle, who served in the Korean War.
“We’ve always been a part of that place growing up,” Robert said. “We’ve always had our birthday parties there. I think [Dominique’s] baptism was there. I know [Nancy’s] baptism was there.”
“All of our milestones,” Nancy added.
Robert said William Earle & Son served as a connection for the family.
“Everything we have today is pretty much because of that business,” Robert said.
In addition to co-owning William Earle & Son, Robert and Nancy created a real estate and brokerage business together while, upstairs in the same building, Dominique runs the hair salon she inherited from her father. The three siblings also live on the same street where they grew up –– Robert in a house once owned by his grandfather.
For the young generation of Newton-raised Coppolas, continuing the business’ 97-year legacy and filling their grandfather’s value-driven shoes has been a “nerve wracking” task, Nancy said.
Each sibling manages separate aspects of the family business. Robert focuses on day-to-day field work while Nancy and Dominique run the contracts and marketing.
Robert said the company got its start in 1925 in Allston-Brighton when Joseph William Earle migrated from Cork, Ireland. Then William Earle & Son was passed down to their grandfather, who ran the business from the 1950s to the late 1990s after returning from the war.
“He was the perfect example of the American dream,” Robert said.
Their grandfather expanded the business and its reputation in Newton while supporting his workers and the community with acts of kindness, Nancy said.
“[My grandfather] never forgot where he came from, and he was very humble, and that’s why he helped so many people because he knew what it was like to have nothing,” Dominique said.
Nancy said their grandfather would have donated the job as well, and they wanted to mirror his charitable spirit.
Their grandfather, who died in 2010, gave homeless people $100 on Christmas Eve as he drove around town, advised his workers to start their own businesses and helped people buy houses and cars, Nancy said.
The Coppola family currently donates and volunteers at organizations like the Campus School at Boston College and is working on plans with the Carter School in Boston and the Price Center in Newton to donate Christmas presents to young adults.
The siblings took over the business in 2020 when their close family friend and “son their grandfather never had,” Robert “Doc” Whelan, who ran the paint contractor service from 1998, passed away from cancer.
“To be able to continue it to make him proud, I think that’s our goal,” Nancy said.
Clara Cahill-Rogers and Thalia Lauzon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.