Accomac, VA — Nicholas J. Covatta, Jr., owner of an Eastern Shore nursery and a Norfolk-based equipment company, as well as a dedicated and generous supporter of Eastern Shore education and artistic enterprises, died early Sunday, November 25, 2012, at his home on Folly Creek, just outside of Accomac, Va. He was 66 years old and had been battling cancer for the past year.
Mr. Covatta, a native of Troy, N.Y., and a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (SB 1968) and Harvard University (MBA 1972), moved to the Eastern Shore in 1980 after purchasing Eastern Shore Nursery of Virginia, a wholesale nursery near Keller, Va. He also co-founded the Atlantis Group in Norfolk, Va., which consists of four Mid-Atlantic operating subsidiaries, including CFE Equipment Corporation.
Before moving to the Shore, Mr. Covatta spent more than a decade working in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and the Middle East as an adviser, strategic consultant, and corporate executive. He served as a senior consultant with Boston Consulting Group, a vice president of Gulf Oil Corporation, a staff executive of General Electric, and an executive vice president of AI International Corporation.
Given his background in business, his newly founded Virginia companies thrived. Asked once what the secret was to building a business, he said: “First, never borrow more money than you can afford to lose. And when you start a business, start it where you have location and distribution factors that constitute a ‘moat’ that possible competitors will find difficult to challenge.”
When he came to the Shore, Mr. Covatta brought with him not just his business expertise, but a deep personal appreciation and love for higher education and the arts; and above all a devotion to his wife and business partner, Robin Rinaca. Together they raised two daughters, Anna and Danielle, and settled into their new home, they had purchased and meticulously restored one of the Eastern Shore’s grandest old homes, Bowman’s Folly (c. 1815), on Folly Creek.
Mr. Covatta’s involvement in his daughters’ activities led him to play a minor role in a local production of “The Nutcracker,” a gig he enjoyed so much that he became a frequent performer on the stage at the North Street Playhouse in Onancock, Va. Over time, he played many leading roles, perhaps the most notable being that of Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman”, a role that, for sure, he did not play in his own no-nonsense business life.
Once, after being praised for his portrayal of Willy Loman, Mr. Covatta said: “You know, I worked really hard at getting that role right, or what I thought was right. And, you know, I got it right, if I do say so.”
Mr. Covatta was appointed to the board of the Virginia Commission for the Arts by Gov. Tim Kaine in 2006 and he later was elected as chairman of the Commission. He served on the boards of Virginians for the Arts, the North Street Playhouse, Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital and Eastern Shore Community College Foundation. Mr. Covatta was also active in the following organizations: the MIT Educational Council, the McGovern Center for Brain Research at MIT, the Parents Committees for both St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH and Wellesley College in Wellesley. He also was a member of Grace United Methodist Church in Parksley, Va., and served as its treasurer for ten years.
In the last year of his life, Mr. Covatta was steadfastly positive, saying often that he had had “a good life” and no reason to complain. He had a lifelong passion for the New York Yankees and he loved to travel with his family. One might speculate that his greatest regret would be that he was only able to collect two Social Security checks.
Mr. Covatta was born Nicholas Joseph Covatta, Jr., on September 4, 1946, in Troy, N.Y., the son of Nicholas J. Covatta, Sr. and Lillian Graziade Covatta. Besides his wife, Robin Rinaca, he is survived by two daughters, Anna Scott Covatta of New York, N.Y., and Danielle Elizabeth Covatta of Arlington, Va., and three sisters, Mary Beth Ditoro (Michael) of Chester, N.H., Marilyn Christian (Joseph) of Troy, N.Y., and Sister Annette Covatta of Lake Oswego, Ore.
ARRANGEMENTS: A memorial service for family and friends celebrating Mr. Covatta’s life was held at his home, Bowman’s Folly (25118 Bowman’s Folly Drive, Accomac, Va. 23301) at 1 p.m. on Thursday, November 29, 2012.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Eastern Shore Community College (ESCC) Foundation for Project Horizons, 29300 Lankford Highway, Melfa, VA, 23410, to Grace United Methodist Church, Parksley, VA 23421 or to the charity of your choice.
Memory tributes may be shared with the family at www.williamsfuneralhomes.com.
Arrangements by the Williams-Parksley Funeral Home.