8/17/2010 10:00:00 AM 
Ruvo del Monte - Dragica Dina Hunter's speech - English version 




Versione italiana

Mayor Romano, my dear friends, and dear guests,

I am deeply moved and greatly honored to be here with you this afternoon to pay tribute to one of your sons, Evan Hunter, who, in ways more profound than one can easily convey, carried with him the soul and the spirit of your lovely Ruvo del Monte. The grandfather of that son, Giuseppantonio Coppola, migrated to America early in the last century but he never left behind the memories and inherited values of this nurturing place. He brought with him the qualities of formidable perseverance, hard work, the virtues of inner discipline; and these he instilled in the young Evan Hunter. And I must tell you, if you knew Evan Hunter, you knew the grandfather as well. Then, from the father, Charles Lombino, Evan learned that other great lesson - the importance and satisfactions of creative work, in Evan’s case, the satisfactions of creative writing. So today, as you pay tribute to Evan Hunter - in so many ways, truly a native son - you pay tribute as well to the father and grandfather who nurtured him.

When people ask me how Evan and I met I answer ‘Italian Gods sent him to me’. But because Mayor Romano’s invitation reached me exactly on January 11th, the anniversary of the precise day we met, I will share this with you, our secret story of how it happened.

It was a memorable day. January 11th, 1995. I recall it clearly. A cold, bleak day in New York City. I was in a bookstore on that day browsing the aisles when, looking out, I saw this man - this tall, handsome man, I might add - at one of thee stands, facing books. Now when you ‘face a book’, as it is called, you turn it on the shelf so that the front jacket rather than the spine of the book is showing. In this way, the eye of any browsing customer will be caught.

‘Excuse me, sir, can you tell me where to find maps and charts?’

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I don’t work here.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ I said, ‘I thought you were a sales person.’

‘No’, he said, ‘I’m a writer.’

‘I’m a drama coach,’ I said, and held out my hand.

He took it.

‘My name is Dina,’  I said.

‘My name is Evan,’ he said.

‘Hunter?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ he said.
‘So here we are.’

And so, I am honored to be here and to share this day with you as Mrs. Evan Hunter.

My husband was a man of so many redeeming qualities that, preparing this little address to present to you today, I scarcely knew what to include and what I would simply have to omit - I could not reference them all. Those of you familiar with any of the books in his 87th Precinct series will recognize the qualities of decency, honesty, justice and the moral code by which the lead character, Steve Carella abides. Those were the qualities of my husband as well. Those of you who read Evan Hunter know, as well, the complexity of his characters as well as the depth by which they are defined. And those were aspects  of Evan, too.

Moral code, imaginative reach, the deep understanding of humans in their subtlest behavior… in Evan these were always channeled as well to his work as a writer.
Because that was what Evan Hunter was. A writer. And Evan loved to write.

In a radio interview in London some time ago, Evan was asked how much he loved writing.

‘More than anything else,’ he replied.

‘Anything?’ the Interviewer persisted.

‘Yes, I would say so.’

The Interviewer, pressing him further, and Evan very much aware that I was there in the studio with him, he added, jokingly, ‘If Dina and the manuscript were drowning, it would be a hard toss whom to save!’

How fortunate, really, whether writing as Evan Hunter or as Ed McBain, the pseudonym he chose, that he has left us with such a trove of memorable books, screenplays, theatrical plays, tele-novelas, short stories, even musicals. These are his monument  and the monument by which we will remember him.

With that same intensity with which Evan loved his work he also loved life, and he lived life to the full, to the brim. He opened a world to me… of books, people, places. As his wife, his lover, his companion, his confidante, he taught me the bliss of a happy marriage. The most precious gift, and the gift he gave me that sustains me now, is the recollection of our love-filled times, all those love-filled memories. When the cancer came, he was never too old or too ill to comfort me in my fear, to remind me that each day we had was ours to live. And when death came, he taught me the ultimate lesson… of dying in dignity and grace.

My own, final memory of his parting was the writer’s farewell, I suppose. Until his gentle descent into coma, he kept holding my hand while with the other hand he kept circling the air… circling the air… writing indecipherable words, telling stories left untold.

This afternoon we celebrate the life of a great writer; but also, in a very real way, the life of a grandfather as well, Giuseppantonio Coppola, who left his beloved Ruvo, searching for that better life that made the author Evan Hunter possible. One street here will now bear the name of the grandson, but as we walk along it, stroll on it, take the evening air on it, we will surely sense the step and feel of the grandfather too, a grandfather who, in this way, comes home again, to his beloved Ruvo Del Monte… here, finally, with his grandson… home again

Mr. Romano, to you, and to all those others who have made this tribute possible, I thank  you for honoring two of your sons, Evan Hunter and Giuseppantonio Coppola.


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