ARTHUR E. COIA, AT 79; SERVED AS OFFICIAL OF LABORERS' UNION
Arthur E. Coia, retired general secretary-treasurer of the Laborers' International Union of North America, died Thursday in Providence. He was 79.
Though he retired from his job in 1987, Mr. Coia continued to serve the 750,000-member union as chairman of its New England Laborers' Training Fund, the Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts state legal services funds and in other capacities.
Mr. Coia was the son of Italian immigrants and spent his life helping workers.
He joined a Rhode Island chapter of the union in 1933 when he was 20 and working as a construction laborer. Three years later he was elected to his first union office and went on to serve as president and business manager of the chapter, during which time the membership grew from less than 200 to more than 3,000.
He was appointed to the union's international staff in 1954. He worked as a regional manager in the union, organizing workers around New England.
In 1979 he was elected general secretary-treasurer of the union, a job he held until 1987.
Mr. Coia was noted for his involvement in community affairs and was especially interested in improving safety condtions in the workplace and in advanced training for workers.
He leaves his wife, Maria; a son, Arthur, of Barrington, R.I.; and two grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Ann's Church in Providence, R.I. Burial will be in St. Francis Cemetery in Pawtucket, R.I.