Lou Florimonte

Obituary of Lou Florimonte

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Private family services will be held for Louis “Lou” Florimonte who passed away on March 18th, he was 86 years old. Lou was born in Old Forge, Pennsylvania, to Italian-American parents. Lou was not yet five when his father died, plunging his family into poverty and hardship during the years of WWII. The middle of three boys, he developed resourcefulness and courage to forge ahead despite uncertainty. Following his graduation from High School in 1955, he joined the Air Force and became a trainer in missile guidance systems until his discharge in 1959. Lou then worked in a sink manufacturing company before attending college at the Pennsylvania State University. In 1968 he met his future wife, Alexandra Kissinger, in a theater workshop and after one date, they were married outdoors, streamside, in Fisherman’s Paradise, Pennsylvania. While at PSU studying Journalism, he wrote several well-received plays, which inspired him to change his focus to writing. He earned a BA in Broadcast Journalism and an MA in theater. During this time, Lou and Alex also had two boys, Arik and Cory. Becoming a father was one of the most cherished roles Lou took on and he tried to give to his children all that had been lacking in his own life. Lou worked at the television station WPSX at Penn State for several years, writing, directing, and producing, but without the creative freedom he sought. So, in 1972, drawn by the opportunity to develop his own program, he took a teaching position at the Lindenwood Colleges in St. Charles, Missouri, where he served as head of the theater program and chairman of Communications Arts. During that time, several of his plays were produced off-off Broadway and in other cities. In 1977 he moved his family to Valencia, California where he earned an MFA at the California Institute of the Arts. In 1979 he was invited to teach at CalArts in the Theater School and in 1984 co-founded the Directing for Theater, Video and Cinema program with Alexander MacKendrick and Gill Dennis. Lou was program head from 1994 until his retirement. Lou was a beloved teacher and mentor. He truly enjoyed working with students, valuing their energy and fresh ideas, and he would often see more in a student’s work than the student would ever recognize themselves. He rigorously imparted the rules and traditions of filmmaking, in part to prepare his students to understand when to break them. He was continually learning from his students as well: while he held strong opinions about storytelling technique and would challenge his students intellectually, he would freely admit when a student’s idea was better. His students went on to make art that spoke authentically and beautifully, and Lou remained close to many of them long after his retirement. Lou gave profoundly of himself to his family, his students, and all those he loved. He would turn the whole of his attention and empathy on you without judgment. It didn’t matter what led to the problem, he had a knack for helping you to clarify it and find a way forward. Lou and Alex kept a welcoming home and drew many people into their lives, creating a dynamic community of extended family and friends who felt like family. They’d often look after nieces and nephews for a week at a time while their parents traveled. And as friends of his sons would attest, their house was often a late-night hub where teenagers could drop in and still feel rebellious and adventuresome, while in reality remaining safe and well-fed. Lou was an avid cook, particularly of Italian cuisine. He prepared huge feasts, frequently inviting students over for parties, or hosting Italian Christmas dinners with seven fishes, and even a 150-person lasagna banquet for Arik’s track team (after being volunteered without his knowledge). But his generosity and culinary expertise also combined in small moments. Anyone arriving at Lou’s home at any hour with even a hint of hunger would soon be served a steaming plate of linguini with clams, or a pizza with homemade dough he just happened to have on hand. Lou was an operatic cook, and usually turned the kitchen into a dramatic whirlwind of barely contained chaos. In 2005 he retired from CalArts and he and Alex moved to Denver to be near Alex’s father and their lifelong friends Ed and Sallie Baierlein. Lou loved golfing with Ed, helping in Ed’s theater, and hosting many who came to visit. Lou and Alex traveled four times to Italy, exploring it together from north to south and visiting the ancestral hometowns of Lou’s father and mother. He particularly enjoyed taking pasta-making classes in Bologna and meeting up with his sons and their families at various points. After Alex’s father passed away in 2011 and Lou was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, they moved to Santa Cruz, California, to be closer to family, including their new grandson, Shane. Lou doted on his grandson. He often spoke of feeling like a child inside, which was evident as he wrestled and invented silly games with Shane when he was little. Later, Lou attended Shane’s little league games, and they made pasta and sausage and went fishing together. He wrote a delightful trilogy of books for Shane, about a boy named Petey who is visited by a rebellious alien named Buzz. Lou was especially thrilled with Shane’s interest in film and storytelling, although he restrained himself, citing his teaching mantra “no information before need.” But his excitement was tangible as he began to mentor Shane’s growing interest in filmmaking. Lou’s love of writing and cooking continued throughout his life, even though Parkinson’s disease made these pursuits progressively more difficult. He worked on his memoirs, and often helped former students with their projects. He continued cooking for his family – bread, pasta, and Italian desserts – even in the last months of his life. And he took up new hobbies such as acrylic painting and creating garden art. He faced the challenges of Parkinson’s with courage, grace, and defiance, supported by Alex’s love and her generous, meticulous caregiving. In February he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and chose not to pursue invasive treatments, his death following one month later. Lou lived his whole life with courage, intentionality, and love. Perhaps it was these qualities that allowed him to live even the challenging final years of his life with such fortitude. Lou left this world better than he found it in every way that matters, and his family remembers him with an abundance of gratitude. Alex cherishes the memories of golden afternoons in Italy’s piazzas and the many road trips they took. Arik and Cory carry on Lou’s creativity, sense of humor, and confidence in taking on difficult challenges. Shane is inspired to continue his storytelling legacy. His daughters-in-law, Claire and Cynthia, have thrived in the light of his unconditional love. Lou is also survived by his brother Joseph Florimonte, brother-in-law David Kissinger, and many cousins, nieces, nephews, and dear friends. Preceding him in death were his father, Louis Florimonte Sr, his mother, Anna (DiNardo) Mancini, stepfather Rocco Mancini, brother Ralph Florimonte, sister Angela (Mancini) Maizie, stepbrother Vincent Mancini, and his niece Laura (Florimonte) Navarette. A public memorial will be held by California Institute of the Arts in Santa Clarita, California in May, and a private celebration by the family at a later date. The family would be grateful for contributions to EASE PD, Inc, the local Parkinson’s non-profit in Santa Cruz, or to the Michael J Fox Foundation, which supports essential on-going research toward a cure of the disease.
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Lou Florimonte

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Lou Florimonte

1937 - 2024

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