Tony Coit knew when he was a kid that he was one day going to be the president of the Manteca-Ripon Pentecost Society.
After all, it was a position that his father and his father’s friends all held at one point in time. Growing up and watching them during their one-year terms always gave him something to aspire to.
It was about friendship. It was about tradition. It was about faith. And most of all, Coit says, it was about family.
And now that he’s nearing the end of his year at the helm of Manteca’s oldest Portuguese organization, Coit is happy he’s had the opportunity to share the experience with his family and play a part in organizing the annual Holy Ghost celebration that means so much to the local Portuguese community.
“The thing that I love about doing this is the people – getting the chance to talk to everybody and build bridges with other halls in other towns that will be here this weekend,” Coit said. “This is something that everybody looks forward to all year, and it takes a lot of work, but it’s great to be on this side of it knowing that you put everything that you had into it.”
Being able to trace back his Portuguese heritage means a lot to Coit.
His grandfather was born on the island of San Miguel in the Azores and immigrated to the United States with the family name of De Coito – which was more than likely shortened upon entry to the country. His grandmother, Mary Dutra, was born on the island of Faial.
Knowing what they left behind in search of a new opportunity, he said, gives him goose bumps.
“When you realize that they did something like that – just came to a place they didn’t know anything about to make a better life – it makes the hair on your arms stand up,” Coit said. “I’m proud to say that’s where I come from.”
Now it’s something that he’s passing on to the next generation of his family.
Each of his three daughters are “Queens” in the annual festa celebration. They will have the entire next year to participate in events at other Portuguese halls throughout Northern California.
With his wife Marchelle by his side, Coit has weathered the trials and tribulations that come with the job – since he was announced at the annual Contas last October. He is thankful that he has had such a strong support group to help him through some of the more challenging aspects of holding the reins.
“There are definitely parts that are hard – you’re never going to please everybody,” he said. “But I think that this year has been absolutely awesome. We’ve had some amazing turnouts at the dinners, and even though it’s been a down year for the dairymen, they’ve been really supportive – if it weren’t for them none of us would eat.
“I’m proud of the work that I did over the course of the last year, and I’m looking forward to the celebration this weekend.”