A Full Life

Rosemarie (Ro) Fanucchi (September 24, 1937 – May 24, 2006)

Mom passed away recently after a five-month battle with lung cancer. In true Rosemarie spirit, she fought to the very end, not because she was afraid of death but because she unquestionably loved life, loved people, and was a perpetual optimist.

For those lucky enough to have known her, there was no denying that her beautiful smile and piercing blue eyes were merely portals, behind which resided a most spectacular human.

Her enthusiasm, passion, and intelligence paved the way to a successful professional career. Starting with the State Senate, then later as Director of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Santa Barbara County, and ending with her most rewarding position: co-founder and editor of Coastal View News. Many knew Mom through her “Sea Shells” column, “a vastly witty account of local and personal goings-on,” and/or as an active board member for numerous local and national causes.

True to form, not two years after retiring from the paper, Mom and Dad decide to face another challenge – renovating my father’s 200-year-old family farmhouse in Tuscany, Italy. As with everything she did in life, she took on this endeavor with preparation, vision, and confidence, with the main focus being to further immerse and educate me on family history. For Mom, family was the most important element in life and she nurtured that belief with immeasurable love and affection.

Together with five close friends, this labor of love began the first of September 2005, with completion projected for mid-January 2006. As her only surviving child (we lost my brother Stephen eleven years ago to AIDS), never a day went by without a call, visit, or e-mail. The longest I had ever been away from her was in the ‘80s when she and Dad toured Europe for six weeks, so we knew the planned four-month-plus separation would be brutal. During those months, Mom kept me entertained with day-to-day challenges and accomplishments of the project, while feeding me family history as she learned it. Combined with her piecemeal Italian, Dad’s fluency, and fluttering tongues of broken English, beautiful tales began to emerge, bringing to life the Window’s of Via Biacioni. In her words, “These stories came to me as I lived in the house, touched items of long ago, and listened to stories from villagers who knew family and garner feelings.”

Having no ability to be separated from Mom any longer, Greg (my partner) and I headed to Italy for Christmas. Our reunion was silent, standing in the cold winter’s night hugging each other as tears of comfort streamed down our faces. All was okay now, I was with my mama.

And she was my mama; she made that clear every day as we were growing up. “I am not one of your friends,” she would say, constantly reiterating that she was the one responsible for preparing us for adulthood. Adamant that self-respect and esteem could only be achieved by setting goals and accomplishing tasks, she held unbending to the “you choose the action you choose the consequence” motto, and never allowed us to escape or neglect our responsibilities. “You’ll thank me later” must have been said to us a million times over, and again, she was right. She found any opportunity to talk about lessons of life, from the spider running aimlessly around the floor that needed to be caught and set free, to our family budget hearings. She carried on that practice until the end of her life, often threatening “Okay, I just won’t say anything anymore” if I began shaking my head in disagreement. Of course, that was immediately followed by, “You know, I’m still your mother.”

Despite her “non-lackadaisical” mothering style, friends and other children gravitated to her, desirous of her special warmth and guidance. Many touted her as their “Second Mom” – and honestly, she was the same strict, but unconditionally loving mother to them as she was to her own children. Mom’s ability to make one feel safe enough to express anything – knowing she’d intensely listen, understand, then tell you to pull yourself up and get back out there – was just one of the many exceptional gifts she gave to the world.

Now, getting “back out there,” is exactly what she’d tell me to do. “Feel the pain my baby girl, mourn my loss,” she’d say, “but continue to live the life I brought to you. Cherish your health, your family and your friends, always remembering to remain committed to the promise of leaving this world a better place.”

That you did, Mom, that you did.

Eli Luria (1919 – 2006).

People – many, many people – found it easy to call him “friend.”

Eli Luria, who passed away earlier this year on Friday March 10th, was easy to like and for family and close friends, easy to love. He was smart, curious, knowledgeable, talented, and above all, generous. His mischievous eyes, welcoming smile and inquisitive, capacious, intellect engendered loyalty and attention. Those eyes and that smile bred trust; one sensed quickly that here was an honest man, a fair man.

A public memorial to this most civic-minded citizen filled the Lobero Theater on April 9th with remembrances and tributes from friends and family members. One of the most poignant was delivered by his daughter Kandy.

“You could take any day out of the canvas of my dad’s life,” she said, “and every day was a rich, colorful design. He met with his friends, loved working, building, traveling, being with his family, reading history, studying the universe, listening to concerts at the Music Academy, doing yoga, teaching art classes, painting, exercising, golf with his nephews, sketching, giving scholarships, building programs like Turf to Surf or PAL to help “at risk” youth, advising, investing, philosophizing, and eating blueberries.”

Kandy continued, remembering that her dad was many things, “a philosopher, an historian, a philanthropist, an artist, a great humanitarian. He faced every day with integrity, and had the courage to be honest… He was a gentleman and a prince… He was my father.”

In other words, as his wife for nearly sixty years, Leatrice “Lee” Luria, described him for Thomas Schultz of the Santa Barbara News-Press, Eli was “a man of all seasons.”