It is with a heavy heart that we report the loss of a great individual in our industry. Antone “Tony” DaCosta of DaCosta Awning Company passed away on September 19 after a long illness. He will be missed by all. In this month's blog article, we would like to celebrate Tony and his accomplishments by providing some insights into his life and family.
Tony was born in Taunton, MA also known as the Silver City in 1931 at the start of the Great Depression. In those days, even a city known for a precious metal, fell on tough times. Tony was born to Antone and Ermalinda (Margarido) DaCosta. Immediately following Tony’s birth, Tony’s father moved his family to New Bedford in search of work, landing a job at C. E. Beckman in New Bedford, MA. Many know C. E. Beckman today as the marine distributors still located in New Bedford. In the 1930s, C. E. Beckman was known as a sail loft and awning fabricator. Tony’s dad originally learned the canvas trade in the Navy. He began his employment with C. E. Beckman in the sail loft, eventually transferring to the awning department. However, like so many other business, the depression took is toll. C. E. Beckman’s was forced to close the awning department as the demand for awnings dried up. Tony’s dad was laid off at a most difficult time in US history.
Tony’s dad worked hard to make ends meet. During the day, he would solicit businesses on Acushnet Avenue in New Bedford, offering to repair their awnings. Businesses were struggling and couldn’t afford to have new awnings. However, they could afford to repair what they had. Tony’s dad worked extremely hard and built a loyal following.
As the affects of the depression waned, businesses finally started purchasing new awnings. Tony’s dad decided to take a chance, investing into a business. His first purchase was a much-needed sewing machine. He also needed a truck. To raise the capital, he sold his wife’s car (unbeknownst to her). He named the company Quality Awning and located the shop on Union Street in New Bedford. He stayed in this location for a few years before moving to Taunton in 1935. He continued his awning business in New Bedford while living in Taunton.
By 1938, Tony’s dad had purchased a home in Taunton and set up shop in the cellar. At the same time, he changed the name of the business to Taunton Awning. In 1941, he moved the shop out of his cellar, building a shop behind his house. This is the present site of DaCosta Awning.
World War II arrived and canvas was scarce. All available fabric was being used for the war effort. Without fabric, awnings were not possible. So, Tony’s dad closed up shop and sold sewing machines for a brief period of time. Eventually, he re-joined the Navy to help his country. After the war, he worked at Camp Miles Standish located at present day Taunton Industrial Park. At the time, Camp Miles Standish detained German prisoners of WWII. Eventually, as canvas became available, Tony’s dad returned to the awning trade, continuing the business as Taunton Awning.
Tony Jr. entered the awning trade in grammar school, helping out his dad, learning all aspects of the business. He first started as a pipe threader. Eventually, he went to work on the trucks, working on takedowns and put-ups as well as new installations. He continued all through school working with his dad
In 1952, Tony left his dad’s business and joined the Air Force, stationed at Sampson Air Force Base in Geneva, NY. In 1953, he met his wife, Patricia Murphy from Milton, MA. They eventually married and moved with the Air Force to France – near Bar-sur-Aube in Southeast France. Tony and his wife rented a house outside the base. Their two children, Steven and David were born while stationed there.
Tony and his family came back to the US in 1955. He left the service and worked for his dad for about one year. However, Tony wanted to explore different careers and left his dad. He worked in various jobs for a period of about 10 years trying to find his “calling.” During this same time period, Tony’s dad sold the business to a Taunton Venetian Blind Company / Coronet Awning. Tony’s dad was contracted to work for the awning division. At the time, the company’s focus was mainly aluminum awnings. During this time, the name of Taunton Awning died out. Eventually, Tony bought back the fabric portion of the business back and reopened his former awning business. However, he changed the name to Antone DaCosta Awning & Canvas Specialties.
In 1965, Tony’s dad wanted to retire and offered him the business. Tony decided awnings was his “calling” in life and took the offer. He kept the shop in the same location, renting the building behind his dad’s house. He shortened the name of the business to what it is today, DaCosta Awning. The shortening of the name helped for advertising purposes.
Tony leaves behind six children, three boys (Steven, David and Paul) and three girls (Patti, Susan and Dana). Four of them have been actively involved in the business. Tony’s household was very musical. Tony’s wife is able to play piano by ear as well as read music. One son, Steven, went to Berklee School of Music while another son, David, went on tour nationwide with a band. His oldest daughter, Patti joined him in the business in 1985. She remained at his side, running the business during his illness.
Tony was a member of the NECPA for quite some time. He remembered going to his first convention in Maine during the 1960 (at the time, the NECPA was know as the New England Awning and Tent Manufacturers Association). He continued going to the conventions, eventually joining the Board of Directors. He worked his way up the Board and became President of NECPA in 1976, serving a two-year term. At the same time, Tony was also President of the Raynham Lions Club.
In addition to working hard and being an active member of the NECPA and the Lions, Tony also enjoyed flying. He was able to take flying lessons on the GI bill and obtain his pilots license for singe engine aircrafts. He took numerous trips around the country. He also loved to sail.
Tony was proud to have carried on the legacy and tradition of his family, and the NECPA is blessed to have had such a dedicated man as part of its organization and leadership. He will truly be missed.