March 30, 2020
I bring you the sad news that our beloved Tomie dePaola passed away today from a head injury sustained after he fell in his barn last Thursday. He was at the Dartmouth hospital with blood clots; they tried surgery, but today another new blood clot was one he couldn’t survive.
I am incredibly sad–bereft, really. Tomie’s role in SCBWI was huge. He was an early Board member, and gave one of our first keynote banquet speeches during which he read The Clown of God to a tearful audience. He was a tireless advocate for illustrators, and was the one who insisted we include illustrators in our name (before him, it was the SCBW). He conducted the first master class intensive at the conference. He sponsored the Tomie dePaola award, now called the Narrative Art Award. He spoke at so many conferences, loved our organization and our community. His art was featured on the very first full color Bulletin cover. He never said no to anything we asked.
He was also my dear and close friend, and collaborator on two books of poetry for children. We laughed all the way through each collaboration. Just last week, I had a long and joyful phone conversation with him in which he gave me one of his many recipes for bread and referred me to an internet source for artisanal flour. Such a Tomie ending.
He contributed so much beauty to the world–from his books to his Christmas trees to his scarves to his contagious laughter. He always said that an artist’s life should reflect beauty everywhere, and he lived that. He surrounded himself with everything beautiful–food, flowers, art, friends, parties, theater, music, life. Let’s all celebrate him together. Light a candle and eat something Italian. Maybe listen to a Broadway show tune. I think he’d love that.
Doug Whiteman, his agent and friend, gave me permission to run the entire master class interview we filmed with him a while back. We’re figuring out how to make it available to the world. He looked great in his peach linen shirt, and always told me that the show was an important part of his legacy. We’ll spread his joy.
If you have Strega Nona on your bookshelf, pull it out and read it while you brew up a pot of pasta. And by the way, as Tomie taught me, if you use enough water, you never have to add oil to the pasta water. His legacy endures in all ways, big and small.
Love to all,