Ervin Coppi of Royalton, Illinois, March 21, 1926 – November 14, 2018

Ervin Coppi, 92, of Royalton, died on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at Memorial Hospital, Carbondale. Erv was born on March 21, 1926, in the small, coal-mining village of Royalton, to Italian immigrants Carlo and Esther (Gianni) Coppi. He grew up in the golden age of radio, and first practiced his future trade as a very young announcer for the city softball team when the new softball park opened in 1941. Erv also spent many hours in the magical darkness of the Royal Theater, watching the legends of the silver screen. Always the class clown, his love for the stage was evident at an early age, as the lead in numerous school plays. It was during a holiday pageant rehearsal that Erv heard about the bombing at Pearl Harbor, not realizing how the attack would impact his life a few years later. After graduating from high school in 1943, at age 17, Erv enrolled at Southern Illinois Normal University. He had only completed one year at SINU before he was drafted into the United States Army.
After five months of grueling basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas, Erv’s unit, the 32nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, was called for immediate deployment to the snowy forests of the Ardennes region of Belgium. Under the direction of General George Patton, the unit received three gold battle stars, the final for the Battle of the Bulge, signaling the end of the conflict in Europe. President Truman pulled the troops out of Belgium, for deployment to the Pacific Rim, but the war ended before the soldiers had to sail for Japan.
After WWII, Erv moved to Chicago to enroll in the Columbia College of Radio and Drama. Upon completing the course, he returned to southern Illinois and married his high school sweetheart, Marie Fairley. Erv and Marie loved movies and they chose Hollywood as the destination for their honeymoon. This was but the first of many happy family vacations, with Miami, New Orleans, and the Gulf Coast their favorite locations. Erv began his broadcasting career in 1951, at WFRX in West Frankfort. He had only been there for a few months before the tragic Orient #2 mine explosion occurred at Christmastime. It was on that day that Erv learned some of his most valuable lessons about conducting broadcasting interviews, especially during times of tragedy and sorrow. The following year, Erv joined the staff at WGGH in Marion, and it was there that Erv launched his most famous radio program, “The Egyptian Ballroom.” The program simulated an actual ballroom, with sounds of the audience enjoying music, food and drink. It was so real; people thought there really was an Egyptian Ballroom.
Erv’s final job in radio broadcasting was at WJPF in Herrin. It was during that time his daughter Carla was born. Named for her grandfather Carlo, Erv and Marie said it was “the happiest day in their lives.”
Erv’s last broadcasting position was with WSIU Television, as host of a popular weekend movie series where he shared his incredible knowledge and love for classic films.
Erv enjoyed taking part in civic affairs, and followed in the footsteps of his father as a member of the Royalton Village Board and mayor of Royalton. The man who followed Erv as mayor was Frank Savka, and their friendship has lasted until this day.
Erv is survived by his daughter Carla Coppi, her partner Judy Marshall, and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. He was preceded in death by Marie, his wife of nearly 70 years, his sister Milta, his brothers Abramo, Tony and Bruno and his parents.
Vantrease Funeral Home, Inc. of Royalton and Zeigler is assisting with the arrangements. There will be no visitation or services. Contributions in Erv’s memory can be made to PAWS, 139 E. Vienna St., Anna, IL, 62906 or the International Friends Club, c/o SIU Foundation, www.siuf.org. Visit www.vantreasefuneralhome.com for more information and to sign the online register book.
Erv lived in Royalton his entire life, never desiring to leave that small, coal-mining village he so loved, or the house where he was born. His ashes will be interred beneath the monument that includes a paraphrase of the title of one of his favorite films.