Index of Posts: Slices of Shona's Life
Memories of Shona

...Shona's childhood...

...High School and College...

From my photos of that summerThe 1986-1987 academic year was spent in Bologna, working in the Archivio di stato di Bologna.

In the summer of 1987, after her Fulbright, Shona worked as a wine sales-person at the Badia a Coltibuono. I went to stay with her that summer, and it changed my life. We lived in the apartment above the wine shop (the Vendetta Diretto "Prodotti della Fattoria"), in a two-story stone cottage, on what could be the most beautiful property in the world. We had access to a Vespa. The view from the windows looked out over Tuscan vineyards and woodlands. The closest town was Gaiole in Chianti, a quaint and tiny Tuscan town which suffered, according to my sister, because of its lack of frescos by Giotto. Her work schedule was 4-days on, 3-days off, and by gum, we made the best of those 3 days. We went to Venice, to Todi, to Assisi, to Florence, to Siena, to Padova and Bologna, to small towns whose names I can no longer remember... Any fresco was fair game, every church crypt needed exploration, small restaurants that hand-made squash ravioli needed to be tested. We marched across Tuscany and the Marches, searching for churches, ceramica, pasta, and adventure. Jane also remembers Shona's insatiable love of exploration in her memorial.

That summer I was just off a water polo tour through Europe with the US team, and needed some R&R; that summer remains the most magical of my life. Just Shona and I, wandering around Italy. If truth be told, I hadn't a clue, I just followed where she led me. With her as my guide, I learned of Giotto's influence, I understood St. Francis' appeal to modern-day worshippers, I clearly understood the psychological and linguistic benefits of a good Chianti, and I got a sense of why Italy appealed to her so.

The Badia sign. I loved that summer.Back at the Badia, she was masterful at her job. The Badia made and sold marvelous wines, olive oils and honey, and Shona for that summer was the gatekeeper to all the rich Italians, Germans, French adventurers who had read in their guide that the Badia was well worth a visit. She spoke Italian fluently, French and German well, and could convince anyone to try everything, and they always left with cases of wine. I wouldn't be surprised if she outsold everyone else. She had a knack of suggesting for trial the most expensive bottles of wine near the end of a day, so that only a small portion of a bottle would be drunk. These bottles could not be used the next day for testing, so we would have them (and any other opened bottle) for dinner. If she managed to open a really special vintage, she'd put out the word throughout the Badia, and all the staff would come for dinner, bringing pasta, salads, pesto, whatever else was at hand, to share.

Tuscan adventuresAfter that summer, I went back to finish college, Shona went to Denver with Randy, she entered the graduate program in History at the University of Colorado at Boulder. There she recieved a Masters, and a Phd. There were numerous trips back to Italy for her research (read about her book here). (I think they went back to Bologna with Shane as a baby.)

She unleashed her adventurous, exploratory spirit wherever they lived. In Colorado, she loved living in the mountains, loved the hiking and cross-country skiing they could do. She was always fascinated with local history, and found small mining towns in the Rockies just as (or maybe almost as) interesting as Italian towns. Randy talks about their travels here. Soon the kids were born, and Shona and Randy were able to get two Professorship positions, his in Economics, hers in History, at University of Missouri, Kansas City. There she taught courses on the Black Death, gender and family in medieval and early modern Europe, Renaissance and Reformation Europe, and World History, and continued her research on social history of late medieval Italy and faculty families in Renaissance Bologna.

In 2002, she was awarded the "Rome Prize" and became a fellow at the American Academy in Rome. The Academy was founded in 1894 to foster the pursuit of advanced research and independent study in the fine arts and humanities. As the Academy states, Shona was one of a small select group of recipients "invited to Rome to pursue their work in an atmosphere conducive to intellectual and artistic freedom, interdisciplinary exchange, and innovation." Shona and the whole family moved to Rome for the year. My husband Brian and I, Brian's mom Marcella, and my parents, met Shona and the family for a lovely 2 week Sicilian adventure to ring in 2003 in Cefalu. We had a wonderful time; our New Year's feast at Hotel Le Calette lasted hours, with multiple courses (and dancing between courses), and dessert followed by lentils at midnight.

In the Fall of 2011, Shona moved back to Italy, Florence this time, to begin a year at the Villa I Tatti as a fellow to work on her project, Faculty Families of Fourteenth-Century Bologna. This part is likely going to be tough to write. The outpouring of memories from her friends and colleagues at the I Tatti are testament to her time there: she was in her element at the I Tatti, loving work, thriving in Florence, enjoying time with Alina. Here is what colleague Filippo De Vivo says:

"She was clearly very happy about life in Florence, enthusiastic about her research and always eager to hear about colleagues' work, ready to discuss theoretical takes and archival findings. I felt very profoundly that she was the ideal colleague: as enthusiastic about the history of Bologna as about family matters, she had always a kind word for people around her, and you sensed distinctly that she was genuinely generous."

Lino Pertile in a letter read at her memorial at the I Tatti says:

"Bernard Berenson wanted this to be a place of peace and tranquility, a place where scholars could exchange ideas and share the excitement of research and intellectual discovery. This is what Shona showed herself ready to do every day here. At the lunch table we could hear how she revelled in connections made with all scholars from both her own and other disciplines. But there was something else we heard from her at the table: her occasional, lovely bursts of laughter that made all conversations with her, scholarly and not, a pleasure for everyone. She was in every way a wonderful I Tatti Fellow."

I know that is what my parents thought when they visited her in February of this year. It was one of the coldest weeks on record, and once they had thawed out on their return, they regaled me with wonderful stories about their adventures with her, what they had seen, what they had eaten, what she was working on.

More to come...