J. Anthony Covino, 96, died on May 8, 2018, at his home in Manset (Southwest Harbor), surrounded by friends and family who loved him. Born on Nov. 8, 1921, in Port Chester, N.Y., he was the youngest of the six children born to Italian immigrants Matilda (Ciliberti) and Joseph A. Covino. Over the years, he was known as Anthony, Tony, Mr Covino, Uncle Anthony and Toie!
Tony was a public school principal in Ocean Township, N.J., for 30 years.
A graduate of Port Chester High School (1939), Tony attended East Stroudsburg State Teachers College (East Stroudsburg University), graduating in 1943. In February 1943, he, and many of his classmates at East Stroudsburg, were called into service. As part of Patton’s Third Army, Tony served in Austria, France, Czechoslovakia and Germany. A favorite family story occurred after the War when he was stationed in Germany. Just before Christmas in 1945, Tony organized many soldiers, even non-Catholics, to attend a Catholic Mass in nearby Augsburg. There they accomplished their secret and joyful mission: carry and drop off scores of chocolate bars for the children. Because GIs were forbidden to “fraternize” with the defeated Germans ¾ even with children ¾ giving candy away directly was against Army regulations. They left the pile of chocolates for the priest to distribute. Tony was discharged as a staff sergeant in March 1946.
Generous GI Bill benefits funded Tony’s return to school for a Master’s in Education from Teachers College at Columbia University (N.Y.). At Columbia, Tony met and fell in love with Mary Strock Robbins from Bridgeton, N.J. They married on Nov. 27, 1947. Their marriage of 57 years ended at Mary’s death in 2005.
Tony taught social studies in White Plains, N.Y., and Riverside, N.J., and, in 1952, he became principal of the Wanamassa (N.J.) School. Mary and Tony moved to Wanamassa with their very young children, Susan and John. In 1958, the new Ocean Township School opened. Tony became the first principal, leading the school until his retirement in 1982. Throughout his career in Ocean Township, Mr. Covino’s hard work, integrity, enthusiastic school spirit, sense of humor and love for children endeared him to generations of students, parents and teachers. He continually urged students to “do the extra step” and to consider Ocean Township School “the best school in the United States.” Mr. Covino’s fairness was legendary. He told his students: “Anything you see me do, you can do.” More than one student waited in vain to see if Mr. Covino would ever walk on the grass or chew gum in school ¾ both forbidden activities! Former students fondly remember Mr. Covino’s insistence that they tell the truth about misdeeds, followed by his giving them a second chance. At his retirement in 1982, the library at the Ocean Township School was named “the J. Anthony Covino Library.”
Tony’s passion never wavered about the importance of public schools to our democratic way of life. He believed that public education was the backbone of our democracy and, in its best incarnation, helped level the playing field for all students. He advocated tuition-free public colleges and universities. Tony always said that society benefits when we all have a good education.
Tony was devoted to his large extended family. He took great pride in his Italian heritage and loved when we could all be together. Tony had many stories of the sacrifices, hard work, love and loyalty that kept his family together during the Great Depression.
A lifelong Democrat, he marched in a parade at the age of 7, carrying a sign for presidential candidate Al Smith. Tony often spoke of the New Deal WPA program that provided a job for his out-of-work father and millions of others. A union man, Tony was instrumental in the negotiations that resulted in Ocean Township educators receiving medical insurance as part of their benefits. He helped organize the Ocean Township Principals Association. Throughout his 36 years of retirement Tony received his pension and continued to receive medical and dental insurance. Tony was grateful for the NJEA, the strong educators’ associations in New Jersey, which negotiated these benefits. Always seeing the big picture, Tony thought EVERYONE should have the same benefits and supported universal health care.
During their retirement years, Mary and Tony enjoyed traveling with family and friends, attending family celebrations, and most of all being with their wonderful grandchildren. Moie and Toie played whiffle ball, Candyland, card games and puzzles and took them to ball games and on outings. They eagerly attended their grandchildren’s many, many performances and ball games, and were always ready for chauffeur duties. Moie and Toie were grandparents “EXTRAORDINAIRE.”
In 2003, Tony and Mary left New Jersey and moved to Southwest Harbor to be closer to Susan and her family. They had spent many years coming to Southwest Harbor, often for months at a time. After their move, frequent visits by family and friends gave them many opportunities to show off their beautiful Island. Tony and Mary stayed in contact with many friends and teachers from their 52 years in New Jersey, all of whom remembered them with fondness.
After Mary’s death, new joys came Toie’s way with the arrival of great-grandchildren Russell, Gwyneth, Flora and Owen. Toie was always so proud of his family!
Tony enjoyed meeting and getting to know new people, including the friends of his children and grandchildren. And they enjoyed knowing him. Tony met everyone with an open heart. One recent acquaintance described him as having a “magnetic” personality; another said Tony was the finest person he’d ever met.
Tony was predeceased by his adored wife, Mary, and his wonderful siblings Al, Evelyn, Pete, Vinny and Nick; and his niece Patricia Ellen. Tony is survived by his beloved children, Susan Covino Buell (John) and John (Susan), and their children and grandchildren, Todd Buell (Brussels, Belgium), Katharine Covino Poutasse (Harvard, Mass.), Brian Covino, (East Boston, Mass.), Elisabeth Buell, (Providence, R.I.), Timothy Buell, (Bar Harbor) and Daniel Covino (Grinnell, Iowa) and Russell, Gwynnie and Flora Poutasse and Owen Covino. Uncle Anthony is also survived by his much-loved nieces and nephews and their spouses, children and grandchildren, and many cousins.
The family wishes to thank the very loving helpers who cared for our father over the last few years. Their presence enriched Toie’s life immeasurably. We are very grateful to Edie, Stacy, Judy, Bethani, Christy and Amethyst.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10 a.m., July 7, at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Seawall Road, Manset. The reception for family and friends immediately follows at the Buell home, 68 Fernald Point Road, Southwest Harbor. Internment at Holy Redeemer Cemetery will be later in the day. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Tony’s name to the Harbor House Community Service Center, 329 Main St., Southwest Harbor, ME 04679 or to the “J. Anthony and Mary R. Covino Memorial Scholarship” at Ocean Township High School (attn: Myra Siciliano), 550 West Park Ave., Oakhurst, NJ 07755.
Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 1139 Main St., Mount Desert.
Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.