To Joseph with Love
I just returned home from a memorial service for Joseph Montebello, a friend and, luckily for me, a writer for BerkshireStyle. It was filled with love, joy, tears, laughter, sadness - all reflecting the man who lived his life fully.
The church was filled which would have pleased him, a testament to his involvement in the community and to his many friends. His partner, Ron Leal, delivered an eloquent farewell to his partner of 49 years. Their terrier-mix, Boo, sat on the lecturn, quietly waiting for his master to finish the eulogy. Ron, with his acute sense of humor, spoke of their relationship, of their life together. He specifically mentioned Joseph’s love of both books and dogs.
Joseph and I bonded over stories and dogs. He was as nutty about his canine companions as I. It was love at first bark. We discussed our canine adventures, food, training. Most of the population finds these subjects a bit of a bore. Not us. It was talking about our children. Always fascinating! And of course stories, many, many stories. Some made it into print, others not.
I first met Joseph when a friend kindly arranged a small luncheon to introduce us. The website was in its opening days, I was timid in my new job as publisher, surprised and thrilled that someone as over qualified as Joseph would agree to write for us. I was grateful. I still am.
Then followed nine years of delightful meetings and adventures. We met for coffee regularly to discuss story ideas but really to discuss life. We covered happenings in Litchfield and the greater Berkshire area, Ron’s volunteer project of the moment, people both famous and not, personal history, style. Joseph was stylish in all that he was and did, a perfect match for BerkshireStyle. We celebrated Thanksgiving with Carolyne Roehm, attended a memorial service together and had the occasional lunch. We became friends.
Joseph generously commuted to Lakeville and Canaan for our monthly BerkshireStyle meetings. During the pandemic our meetings moved to Zoom. Joseph sat in front of a sunlit window in his new house, backlit. That did not stop his contribution however he was hard to see. His last idea for a story was Litchfield Eats. It is on our calendar.
Joseph wrote wonderful stories of people (A R Gurney, Ed Herrmann), of businesses (Batam Tileworks, Jailhouse Rocks) and events (The Rainbow Flag Flies, Turning the Page). He helped us chronicle the region he so dearly loved.
Joseph was also my editor. He would rise early Wednesday morning and read the features on BerkshireStyle. If needed, he would write me a very polite email letting me know the paragraph and sentence where to find an existed typo or a clumsy phrase. It was a huge favor. I was always grateful.
His death was a surprise, unexpected. I heard he was sick and, shortly thereafter, dead. Somehow the suddenness felt unreal. It takes time to actually accept this kind of loss. A friend, a colleague, part of our BerkshireStyle family gone.
I was happy to attend this beautiful service, to give Ron a hug, to remember Joseph with others who loved him. Within the Church he attended I was able to fully feel the sadness and better accept the loss. There will always be an empty place in my heart without his friendship and counsel.
Thank you Joseph. I am so grateful to have known you.