Violet Coppola White
Nov. 17, 1920 – March 5, 2019
NATCHEZ— A celebration of a long life, well-lived, for Violet Coppola White, 98, who died Tuesday, March 5, 2019, at Northside Forsyth Hospital in Cumming, Ga., will be 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Mary Basilica with the Rev. David O’Connor officiating, assisted by Deacon Owen Francis of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Burial will follow at the Natchez City Cemetery under the direction of Laird Funeral Home.
Mrs. White, a former Natchezian, was born Nov. 17, 1920, with a happy disposition, in Hamden, Conn., the daughter of Catholic Italian immigrants, Eugenio and Rosa Maturo Coppola. Her father earned his naturalization papers when she was three years old.
Readily sharing her million-dollar smile, Violet never met a stranger or a cup of coffee she didn’t love. For 98 years, her optimism, enthusiasm for life and positive energy radiated to all who were around her.
She saw things differently, didn’t mind being the only female in the school of pharmacy when most women were not college educated. A 1942 graduate of the University of Connecticut, she remained a lifelong Huskies fan.
The United States had entered World War II, and in October 1943, Violet tried to join the Navy. However, at her physical exam, she lacked the required height of five feet, despite the way she arranged her hair. No amount of pleading could budge the Navy doctor. She persuaded a doctor-friend of her family to speak with him. Eventually, she was granted, on paper, the missing quarter-inch and joined the Navy WAVES.
Her future husband, former Natchezian Martin White, stationed at Pearl Harbor for two years, was ordered to temporarily run the pharmacy at the New Orleans Naval Air Station, in the fall of 1944. His only drugstore experience had been working as a soda jerk in high school. When he took inventory, the alcohol was short, narcotics short, everything short, and he dreaded the arrival of the registered pharmacist.
On Halloween, 1944, Violet arrived at the Naval Air Station with orders to take charge of the pharmacy. That afternoon, she was introduced to Martin, and he won her heart. Three weeks later, they were married. They had to live in separate barracks and sometimes in different states before both were ordered to the Great Lakes where they were honorably discharged in October 1945.
Enthusiastic about art, Violet wanted to experience all the painting styles and techniques that she could, winning awards along the way. She belonged to the Mississippi Artists Association, the Dégas Pastel Society of New Orleans, the Kansas Pastel Society and the Pastel Society of the West Coast.
Her artistry and love shone in her Italian cooking. She learned to prepare dishes from her mother and grandmother and kept them all in her head. It was hard to write them down because she didn’t measure anything, just “pinches” and “a balance” of this herb with another.
A 37-year resident of Pearl, Violet was a compassionate pharmacist with the Mississippi Department of Health until her retirement in the mid-1980s. She worked with cystic fibrosis patients, mixing extra attention and love with their medications. She was a scout leader, an avid docent at the Mississippi Museum of Art and a volunteer reader for the visually impaired on Mississippi Public Broadcasting radio.
In 2006, three years after Martin died, she went to live with her daughter, Jeanie, and husband, Richard. She thoroughly enjoyed her life in Georgia, sitting on the screened-in porch reading and drinking black coffee while she listened to the sounds of nature and watched the birds, squirrels and chipmunks. She and the family dog, a Doberman who weighed the same as she, were best buddies.
She had a lifelong love of classical music and opera. Introduced to Dixieland jazz in New Orleans, she and Martin were ardent fans, traveling to attend festivals in their retirement years. She loved Mardi Gras in New Orleans and in Natchez, so it seems fitting that she left this world on Fat Tuesday.
White was preceded in death by her husband of 58 years; her parents; her stepfather, Harry Ardolino; stepmother, Hulda Longard Coppola; one brother, Gene, and his wife, Evelyn.
Survivors include three children, Sharon Richardson Barnett and husband, Jim, of Natchez, Jeanie Ray and husband, Richard, and Marty White, all of Cumming; four grandchildren, Lara Richardson Brown and husband, George, of Natchez, Will Richardson and wife, Dena, of San Rafael, Calif., Marshall White of Appleton, Wis., and Grant White of Austin, Texas; two step-grandchildren, Tracey Edwards and husband, Scott, of Gainesville, Ga., and Seth McRae and wife, Michelle, of Riddleton, Tenn.; two great-grandsons, Liam and Benny Richardson of San Rafael; three step-great-grandchildren, Blake and Emily Edwards of Gainesville and Fisher McRae of Riddleton; and a number of nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be sent to the Natchez Cemetery Association, P.O. Box 1738, Natchez, MS 39121 or to a charity of choice.
Online condolences may be sent to the family at lairdfh.com.