Yesterday I returned home from an afternoon with the family to find this message in my inbox. It hurt me so bad to read these words:
This morning our Paolo lost his battle with cancer. Despite his heroic fight and the unrelenting care of the doctors in Rome, the progress of this cancer could not be stopped. The sorrow and sadness that surrounds us simply cannot be described . Paolo was with family and friends and showered with love in these final days. Those of you who have lost someone to cancer can understand the roller coaster feelings ; one day hope and encouragement and two days later disappointment and uncertainty. Paolo’s strength and dignity throughout this horrific period was nothing less than inspiring. The extreme pain and complete lack of mobility for months was very hard on him. He never gave up hope and from his bedside he attended to program details, worried about the students having a good experience and constantly reassuring us that we could do what needed to be done. He slowly lost his voice but kept his sense of humor right up to the end; joking with the nurses and insisting that they learn some Tuscan expressions and quizzing them on art history.
The world without our Captain Paolo is a different place; it seems emptier, more quiet, less interesting. It will not be easy to move forward without him; his insight and guidance and the beautiful way he shared Italy without exclusion of anyone gave the program its heart.
Paolo’s forty years of dedication, passion and hard work will be honored by continuing the program as best we can. His commitment to make the international experience for students unique and to create an environment that fostered friendship was shared by all who knew Paolo.
Thank you so much for your emails,your calls, messages, cards, and photos; they made the dark days brighter.
I leave you with something of Paolo;
This journey of my life gave me much joy
I was blessed with good friends that helped me understand more
The people and moments that colored my world will remain with me always
Love Sharon and the whole Barucchieri family
You’d probably ask what this has to do with bikes or Crisp Titanium and…well.. it has everything to do with it. Without Paolo and his generous family at the Italart program at Santa Chiara in Castiglion Fiorentino, there would be no Crisp Titanium. Way back when as I was finishing school and had nowhere to go, Paolo and his wonderful wife, Sharon, gave me a place to come to; a new world to explore. He gave me food and shelter when I didn’t know where to turn. He gave me adventure, thought-provoking discussions, wonderful memories and sadness. He gave me a chance to find what I had inside myself and what I could give the world through self-expression. And he wanted nothing in return. He gave me a home.
And if you really think about it, I would have never returned to Italy nearly 20 years ago to ride and race my bikes. I never would have met my wife, had two beautiful kids..and the list goes on and on. But owing my life to an individual like Paolo is not what he was about. He was about giving, not taking. He was about sharing the essence of life. I feel so fortunate to have been at the receiving end of his teachings and to have experienced just a fraction of what he was about.
If you ask any of his former students, colleagues, family and friends, you’ll find that the overwhelming majority of those who came in contact with Paolo, even for brief moments, would talk about his intensity, love, and passion for life and for the connection he had to the historical past as well as the moment we currently occupy. He could blend the two seamlessly and make sense of it all. Just when you would think that there was no connection between Etruscan ruins and a laptop computer, Paolo would make you think again. I’ve never met anyone who could propagate thought like Paolo.
He had a way of connecting the dots when there seemed to be no connection. Many of my friends and fellow students tried to imitate his passion but we couldn’t even come close, no matter how much we studied or travelled the world. He was a gift, our gift.
For me, he inspired to go beyond the superficial. To break into the surface and go down into the emotional, even the metaphysical. His teachings of 20 years ago still give me great challenges and meaning to my everyday life; something that few have done in my 41 years.
He taught me the importance of art and architecture, of history. But he contrasted this with the necessity of “manualita’”, the art of the artisan and the expression of self through the built environment (Paolo was himself and accomplished and exceptional artist and craftsman).
He taught me the immortality of a gesture and the built form as well as thought and feeling while in his passing he showed me the significance of the moment and the small space we occupy on this earth. He taught me to embrace the now.
Paolo has left us in the physical world, and I’m just starting to grasp what he meant by the metaphysical. When I look into the eyes of my wife and baby girls, and those who I care for the most, I’ll hold that embrace a few seconds longer, give the girls and extra kiss on the forehead at bedtime, and embrace the joy that has been Paolo’s gift to me. To us.
I know if he were here watching me sob as I write this, he wouldn’t want me to dwell on his passing. He’s say something like, “Marco, you know without death, there is no meaning of life.” And then he’d take me down the street where he’d offer me a cappuccino at Piera’s bar, and life would be good, just for another moment.