Goodbye to an Old Friend

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ShaLynne Ouellette

My family's collection of Tomie dePoala's children's books.

As I look over the well-worn pages of one of my family’s favorite books Bill and Pete, a sad smile forms on my face. 

Last Friday, one of my childhood heros passed away. Tomie de Poala, aged 85, died in a New Hampshire hospital due to surgery complications after he fell in his art studio.

Because of recent restrictions regarding hospital visitors, Tomie died without his family or friends around him.

During his life, Tomie illustrated over 200 children’s books, writing many of them himself.

He received numerous awards for his work, even one from the Smithsonian Institute. However, his most lasting legacy is the impact he made on the minds and hearts of his readers.

In my family, Tomie definitely left his mark. My first introduction to this great author was when my dad gave me a copy of The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush for Christmas when I was four.

After this, one of the first books I read to my little brothers was Bill and Pete. We were so enthralled by his books, that we wanted more and more.

Our collection grew, so that, along with Dr. Suess, Tomie dePoala takes up a whole shelf!

Along with the countless sporadic moments of joy we have had with our friend Tomie, he has also become a part of our Christmas traditions.

His Christmas stories, like Merry Christmas, Strega Nona, The Legend of the Poinsettia, and The Night of Las Posadas, are as much a part of our celebration as our Jesse Tree.

Because of the deep joy he has given us, my family felt awful when we heard that our beloved friend had died alone due to COVID-19 regulations.

Yet Tomie dePaola did not die alone. Many of his books are the lives and legends of great Saints like: Pascual, Francis, Patrick, Benedict, Scholastica, Christopher, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Holy Family.

He shared their stories with the world. I can only imagine that his heavenly friends were there with him during his isolation in the ICU, ready to take him to a new life. 

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. 

Amen.