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12.10.2009

Remember The Soul... Bob Curtis


I had grown up knowing I had this exotic worldly uncle who lived in Rome and was a dancer. When my mother married my stepfather and went to Rome on her honeymoon, she came back with this big Italian Harper's Bazaar , where my uncle was in a fashion spread with fellow Italian dancers decked out in jewels, furs, and watches. That layout made a vivid impression on me and reinforced my desire to study in Europe and one day be a designer. I went onto to Europe at seventeen and never connected with my Uncle Roy, or Bob as he was known to many .
When my mother died in 2000, I picked up the phone to call him. It was our first conversation ever and he immediately flew 'home' for his eldest nieces Memorial service. My mother wanted a cremation and we had a beautiful two day music and dance filled memorial service. I had a cousin show up with her boyfriend at the time who was in the funk group Cameo, and all sorts of people from various walks of life. And then there was Bob, or Roy as he was know to his family . Everyone was blown away when they saw this beautiful man dance down the aisles. He must have been in his mid seventies , but his movement and grace captured all. I could feel my Mommy's spirit beaming at this spectacular service. All who didn't know him were amazed that this man ,who was so fit and had body most people cant attain, was in his seventies. Uncle Bob was home and he reconnected with his surviving siblings.
I next flew to Vienna to visit him later that year with my Auntie Mame. He had a big exposition of his artwork,called Remember The Soul, in which he was focusing on now, that the dance career was winding down. So many friends and admirers turned out for his exhibition, and its seemed as if Vienna was at at our feet. His friends were so eager to see his nieces from America and were curious about us. He was so happy we were there for him.It was truly an artistic and glamorous crowd.That first trip to Vienna was so memorable. I since returned a few more more times , the last being for his grand 80th birthday celebrations in 2004. A book on his life was also released to coincide with this event. He looked a little weaker and thinner as he caught a bug while traveling and teaching in Africa. His heart weakened more and more over time. He gave me some art on that trip and I remember going through photos with him and looking back over his life. He dropped the names of all these glamorous and beautiful people one only reads about. He was frank and real about his life and experiences. His life was one for the books.
His dear friend Christoph came to the US last year for his one man show. While here, he was also working on a documentary of my dear uncle. We were worried as we knew he was getting frailer and older. His manager and good friend had passed away earlier and we all started to wonder what if? Good friends, like Renate continued to look after him. The family gathered at Auntie Mame's condo and we spoke to Uncle Bob via the miracle of Skpe. It was amazing to see this man, born in 1925 in Mississippi, just as chic and slim as ever in his black turtle neck surrounded by his art, talk to his many generations of family via a Mac Book, just after the election of our nations first black president. I guess on some level we all knew. Uncle Bob never wanted to trouble us and kept his health struggles to himself for the most part. As of recently there was talk of a exposition.
On Saturday Auntie Mame and I will fly to Vienna for his funeral.
We will Remember the Soul and toast his beautiful life.

You can read and see more of his amazing life here.
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21 comments:

toontz said...

So wonderful that you finally caught up with your uncle and developed a relationship with him. What an extraordinary life! Makes me wish I could have met him, too, Courtney. I am glad you are able to go and pay your final respects to your uncle. Have a safe and blessed trip. I will be praying for you and your relatives.

Courtney said...

Thank you so much for sharing the beautiful story. Praying for you all in this time, sounds like he was a wonderful person and glad you got to know him!

Di said...

I'm sorry to hear about your uncle--it sounds like he was an amazing person. Have a safe trip.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A wonderful story! Thanks for sharing!

Cheers,

Rosa

Ruralrose said...

What a lovely tribute!! Am sorry for your losses. One thing about getting older and losing so many is that we can look forward to party ahead for us when we too cross to the otherside. Peace for all

Peter M said...

Again, my deepest sympathies on the loss of your uncle but you've shown here, his many accomplishments and I get the sense that he lived life with gusto.

He'll be missed but he's left many of his accomplishments here in this life.

Bellini Valli said...

Your life has been all that much more enriched by having these wonderful memories.

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Hi Courtney,

I really enjoyed reading about your uncle; how you were able to reconnect with him. I admire (and to some degree envy) people of African ancestry who have a family history which can be documented.

Best wishes during the Christmas holiday and the coming new year.

U

~~louise~~ said...

Such a beautiful tribute, Courtney. You have touched the senses of life. As you continue on your journey remember...Stay safe...

we are never full said...

sounds like he was an awesome, cool and wonderful man! great tribute. so sorry for the loss.

Blog Princess G said...

That's a wonderful tribute from you Coco. I'm so sorry you've lost your uncle but how wonderful that you connected with him. His paintings are amazing! I'm loving exploring his website. I'll be thinking of you in Vienna. Hugs... G

sammie said...

Hello Coco, my name is Sammie and I knew Bob very well when we both lived in Italy. After our Theatre tour in Italy with a musical comedy, Bob and I formed a small dance and went to tour in Greece. After the tour he came back to Italy and I remained in Athens. We did stay in touch either by phone or mail. Such a gracious and beautiful person. I will miss my friend..Sammie Bouldin-Zambito

kellypea said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Courtney. He sounded like one of those truly unique people whom we're lucky to have in our lives and because we've known them, we are better for it. Thank you for sharing his wonderful story. I hope you're well. Hugs.

Anonymous said...

Evelyn says
I had the pleasure of dancing with your uncle in the 60s. I remember a wonderful dancer and a gentle sensitive thoughtful and caring man such as one rarely meets in life and I consider myself lucky to have known him. Please accept my sincere condolences.

Rose&Thorn said...

A beautiful life and a wonderful memory that you have shared. Thank you, I love to see people honour those who have gone before and remember them for the specialness.

Chez Us said...

Beautiful story, so warm and loving. Our thoughts go out to you and your loved ones. Have a safe journey and please accept our deepest condolences.

Andrea Meyers said...

What a lovely tribute you have written to your uncle. And how fortunate the world is to have experienced his talents. Best wishes.

Andrea

Anonymous said...

Hi courtney! it was nice and sad to met you again today.... I miss bob very much - we had so wonderful moments together...I still remember his first words he said to me (almost 15 years ago on a saturday afternoon): why you don't come to dance class?...that was the beginning of a wonderful friendship! I will never forget him - he has a place in my heart..regards martina...p.s. I gave your aunt my card - would be nice to stay in contact! you can also find me on facebook...

Proud Italian Cook said...

Your Uncle sounded like an amazing man who had an amazing life and lived it to the fullest following his passions. Something we should all take to heart.

Hendersonville Epicurean said...

Courtney,
Your tribute thoroughly touched me. I've looked at just about every page on your uncles site - wonderful! Please accept my sincerest condolences. Laura

Jeanne said...

As I have said before, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your fabulous and talented uncle. This really is a beautiful tribute to a life well-lived and I'm only sorry I never got to meet Bob. That top picture of you two is gorgeous and I *love* the painting that you are standing in front of! Big hugs.