Remembering Eugene Martinez

Eugene Martinez: 1953-2013

We have just learned that Eugene died on Friday, November 2 at his home in Florence, Italy. Those of us who knew Eugene are devastated at this untimely and unexpected loss. There is no need to tell his friends who he was nor why we all came to love him so much; but in 2007, Eugene made the decision to move to Italy permanently and some of the HVBA community do not know who he was for us.

There is no way to fully capture Eugene here, but we invite all of you to add your thoughts and memories in the Comment Section below.

How did a guy living in Italy become such an important part of the HVBA landscape?

It all began on Mandolin Café. Pat Dinges and Eugene discovered one another online and before you knew it, Eugene was attending the HVBA jams whenever he was in the States. That was really all it took. If you met him, you loved him. 

There was an incredible warmth that he exuded. He was so, so smart and witty. He had a generosity of spirit and a hearty laugh that absolutely drew you in. He loved the music, but he loved people and animals even more and we loved him, too!!

He was instrumental in helping with our first newsletters and he was the first Website Editor who was full of creative ideas. Oh, how we miss him!!

Rather than saying any more about Eugene (we leave that to you in the comments), we know how those who were his friends are grieving. We all share in this loss.

Lucy Elias: Eugene was my dear friend from NYU.. I met my husband Isaac through him when we were 22. Isaac and Eugene were brothers, I saw him last at my Isaac’s funeral in 2004. I am so sad Can someone give me contact info for Antonio..

Nancy Wilt: Hi Lynn, it’s amazing how much impact a person can have even though ‘across the pond’ as he’d say. I’m sure he loved having you as guinea pigs too – open hearts to listen to his wickedly funny and insightful self. I was spoiled for riches visiting him daily for nearly three weeks…during my Florence trip. I’m glad you are enjoying one of my favorite images of him. Nancy

HVBA: Hi Nancy,
Your photo of Eugene completely captured him for me. I’m so happy to have found the person who took the picture.

When we were last in Italy, Eugene had not yet completed his course for becoming a tour guide. We were his guinea pigs and the tour we had of Florence with him is totally unforgettable. I will always remember Eugene that day as being hilariously funny, brilliant, knowledgable, and mostly for knowing his audience. The tour was completely tailored to our irreverent group.

I don’t think we will ever get past missing him. He lit up our world, even though he was an ocean away. How lucky we were to have had a piece of him and to how lucky we are to hold that piece in our memories.
Lynn Lipton

Nancy Wilt: I’m a childhood friend of Eugene’s and took your lead photo of him when I visited Italy in March, 2012. Eugene had a way of making everyone he cared about feel special. His humor was quick, incisive and unpredictable. When he took people ‘on tour’, they found themselves in the company of a consummate art history professional who had an uncanny ability to engage the viewer into the mysteries of a particular piece that left them clamoring for more. His creative talents are partially reflected in his internet presence but he had much more that he wanted to share (he was researching for a book about an ancient pilgramage). His untimely death (Saturday, Nov. 2nd) leaves us bereft. He saw the ordinary differently like when he was assigned the typical art topic of ‘summer vacation’ at school – he submitted: “Discover Your Own Backyard” – this was just the beginning…I’m sure the pilgrimage continues.

Pat Dinges: It took a long time to get Eugene to attend his first HVBA jam. He was quite shy (he really was…). But once he came, it took no time at all for him to fall in love with both the music and the people here. I will remember him most for his kindness and compassion. My heart goes out especially to Antonio, Juana, and the animals he left behind.

Janice MacDaniels: The first time I met Eugene was at one of the Pirate Canoe Club jams. He had brought his little dog (a Jack Russell, as I remember it) and told me the dog’s name was Monroe. I said, “Gee, you named your dog after a president?”(meaning James Monroe) and he just looked at me with that gleaming eye until I realized it was BILL Monroe! I will never forget his sense of humor and his laughing eyes. So sorry that he is gone and so many are without their friend.

“Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free as well as pure. This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.” William Penn

Mark Hudson: What can you say about Eugene? The gleam in his eye, his sometimes off-beat sense of humor, especially his love of life… All the bits and pieces fitting together like a kaleidoscope, never sure just what you were going to see next, but breathless to find out just what would come up! We’ll miss you Eugene, and wish peace to your family and loved ones…

Michael Sassano: A super sweet soul and a great guy! So sorry to hear this.
We met thru the HVBA, at those classic fun jams held at the canoe club. Of course there was the common mandolin ground and Pat D. and Wayne were very close to Eugene. Enjoyed showing him a few stunt mandolin tricks.. Besides his work with the organization, he was always very supportive of the HVBA’s member bands.

One of the truly wonderful things about playing and staying very active is all the beautiful people you meet and become friends with over the haul.

And as my much older brother (Wayne) would say… ‘Eugene was beyond beautiful’

A fun night… Wayne, Eugene and myself meet at the Blue Note in the city to catch ‘Soul Grass’, Bill Evan’s Jazz-Bluegrass fusion band which included that night..Sam Bush, Tony Trischka, and the great African bass player; Richard Bona…. Sat right in front for two shows!!!! ..and got blown away.. After a $240.00 bar tab (That we got Wayne to pick up) I dropped off Eugene up in Westchester on my drive back home. We had a piss at the show!!! Laughing all night…You know, on the ride we talked family, growing up, friends, relationships..etc & I felt like I knew the guy my whole life…That was Eugene.
My sincere condolences to Twan and Eugene’s family & friends here in the states.

Was a pleasure to know him…

Fred Robbins: I regret not joining HVBA when Eugene was there. My sympathies to all who knew him.

Lynn Lipton: Our hearts are broken today. When he was here, our times together were filled with laughter and warmth. He was a dear, dear friend even though he was as far away as Italy.

I visited with Eugene and Twan twice in Italy and those memories will forever be cherished.

I’ve included two photos from those visits. The second one is with our daughter, Jody, who loved him the moment she met him.

Jerry Oland: Eugene had become a tour guide in Florence, and last winter I wrote to him about taking us around if we visited Italy. Sadly, we didn’t make the trip, and now if/when we go Eugene won’t be there to greet us. His smile and love of life were infectious, and our world is now a dimmer, sadder place. He will be missed……


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