My friend Kenneth Hobbs died today. He suffered a massive heart attack two weeks ago and never made it back to us. You’ve heard me talk about his work. One of his paintings is even on this site. But I haven’t talked much about who Ken was outside of his paintings. He and his wife, Janet have become my Montepulciano family. Sunday lunches with them, glasses of red wine and long conversations form some of my favorite memories of my time here. Ken and Janet moved here over 25 years ago, expat newlyweds on an adventure that never stopped. They shared a love of travel and art and music. Just three weeks ago I was toasting him bon voyage on his trip to France to visit the house of Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence. Monet and Cézanne were two of his favorite painters and inspirations for Ken’s beautiful paintings.
At 86 Ken still painted daily, producing a legacy of work that covers most of walls of Janet and Ken’s home and also those of one of our local restaurants. Ken whistled while he painted in his attic studio and when I would sit outside in the afternoons with Cinder, it always filled me with a sense of peace to hear his melodic whistle echoing down the street. From a naval officer in World War II, to a creative director on Madison Avenue (one of the original Mad Men, he liked to say), Ken was a story teller. He told them in words, in photos, in fiction and in his paintings. He was a collector of toy soldiers, a lover of classical music and a great reader. He made a delicious ragù and although he never spoke much Italian in public, usually relying on Janet’s language skills, he loved Italy and he loved Montepulciano. British by birth, he still had his cup of tea every afternoon, but in the mornings he took a cappuccino and brioche at the local bar. He was a the epitome of a gentleman, but also had a wicked and bawdy sense of humor.
In addition to sharing a bond as Leos and a love of carrot cake, we also shared a passion for the local dessert wine, Vin Santo. We made it our mission at Sunday lunches to try most of the Vin Santo produced here and considered ourselves relative experts on the subject. I never tired of listening to his stories, especially those about meeting Janet who he often proclaimed was the love of his life. There will be a small memorial for Ken on Tuesday, but the real memorial will be in the summer. In August, when Leos thrive, we will celebrate Ken’s life with a walk in the nearby Tuscan countryside that so inspired his work. We will sprinkle his ashes, drink some wine, eat some carrot cake, and remember. Addio, amico mio.
Some of Ken’s work…