Papa Carlo

My grandfather, Carlo Coppo, moved to Del Mar in 1977. For the past forty years he lived on lower Zuni Drive, for the past 10 in a small A-frame house under a tall Torrey Pine tree. The house smelt of wood, and there was a lively colony of bees in the ceiling of the bathroom. On the walls, he displayed his award-winning photography, on the shelves, his impressive collection of first editions. When I was little, I would climb the steep stairs to the top floor and look at the ocean through a small window of stained glass.


My grandfather’s favorite word was “ineffable,” which, ironically, means “unable to be described by words.” I think it’s a perfect word to describe the impact he has made on Del Mar. He helped to shape the town into what it is today. My grandfather, who I affectionately call “Papa Carlo,” would bring me to the ocean-front Poseidon Restaurant, and tell me about coming there over forty years prior, when it was originally called The Firepit. His blue eyes would sparkle, as he told me about taking one look at Del Mar’s bright sands and glossy ocean and thinking: “I need to live here.” My grandfather raised my mother and uncle in Del Mar, and both of them found their way back to the area after college. [Editor’s note: His daughter, Jen Grove, is the Executive Director of the Del Mar Village Association. His son, Robert Coppo, is the principal of Torrey Pines High School.]


My family lived on 11th Street for fourteen years. My childhood memories are filled with summer concerts at Powerhouse Park, carrying stacks of mystery books out of Del Mar Library, and eating cheesy slices of pie from Del Mar Pizza—all thanks to my grandfather.


My grandfather savored each run along Camino Del Mar or the beach, each swim at 17th Street, each coffee as he sat on the bench outside of the 15th Street Starbucks his family dedicated to him in 2014. Some say my grandfather lived life through rose-colored glasses. However, I like to think my grandfather viewed his life like a novel in creation: each experience was a new chapter that moved his story forward. And, like any great novel, my grandfather’s legacy lives on well after the last page.