On February 13, 2016, our country lost one of its greatest patriots and we lost one of our very dearest friends – Nino Scalia.
We became friends with Nino and his wonderful wife, Maureen, almost immediately after Leon said grace at a small dinner in Washington. As soon as “Amen” was uttered, Nino blasted out “That’s the kind of praying I like – that’s the kind of praying you hear in Mississippi”. Our common bond was that Nino loved Jesus Christ, the United States and the mountains of western Montana – so do we. The following summer, before construction began on Backcast, Nino was a guest in our home in Bozeman. From that point on, with one exception, Nino stayed with us each year. At the time of his death, he had booked the “Scalia Suite” for his 2016 visit. Nino stayed with us more nights than anyone else up until his tragic passing.
From the beginning of our friendship, per Nino, Leon (who became Nino’s work-in-process) could do virtually no right and Debbi could do no wrong. On his very first morning with us, he asked Leon “Where are your egg cups?” Leon replied “What’s an egg cup?” and as he was walking away Nino grumbled “And you call yourself civilized.” If Leon made the coffee, it was too weak. If Leon made the toast, it wasn’t burned enough. Leon loved it - finally he had someone he could good naturedly bicker with constantly. Nino must have loved it as well since he never let up. On the other hand, Debbi was nearly perfect. Whatever she cooked was always delicious (usually Nino was in the kitchen helping). If Debbi made the gin and tonics for the two of them, the drinks were always "excellent" – “You can use cheap gin but you have to use good tonic water - that's the secret.” So, we kept plenty of Schweppes on hand ("the small bottles so they don't go flat"). We always joined hands when grace was said - and grace was always said. Making a special event even more special, Nino officiated at the wedding of our daughter, Emily, here at Backcast in 2015.
If you are lucky, you will meet one or two people in your life who become a loving friend and, when they pass, are irreplaceable. Nino Scalia was one of those people. We are deeply saddened by the absence of his physical presence but we are comforted by the many memories we hold dearly. God, how we will miss him. Please enjoy some of the images of Nino’s days with us and remember him with great fondness and appreciation. There will never be another person who can fill the void created by the passing of this great man.
Click on image for a larger view.