Edward Valerio: Losing a True Friend of 20 Years

My old friend, Edward Valerio.
My old friend Ed Valerio photographed at Chez Albert after the most expensive lunch we ever had.

Edward Valerio was a friend, a true friend, a friend who defined what friendship means to me.  “Maaaax!” he’d shriek into the phone whenever I’d call. He exclaimed that way because he was truly happy to hear my voice. He was like that. He made you know you were special.  He made me know I was unique and that he had few friendships like ours. I felt the same way about him.

Ed made me feel like I had the best bud in the world, one replete with fascinating, detailed stories and a rakish history unlike anyone else I knew.  He grew up in Manhattan and Brooklyn was always a part of his life, returning there often. He told intriguing tales of his days in Vietnam (when he was in Laos before it was public), and surviving a small plane crash, and later, living the batchelor life in the ’60s and ’70s in New York City.

He loved it in his native NYC but he also liked being up in Amherst. Though, truth be told, he told me more than once that he hated the politics and the tenor of the town that he lived in since the 1990s. He liked Deerfield, he said, and Northampton. But the Amherst homestead is where he stayed, in his book-filled office and where Ineke, his wife, was at home–she had worked in the Amherst schools.

I’ve enjoyed my friendship with Ineke and Ed for so many years….she was always by his side at our house parties and was his solid companion for so many years and helped him raise two sons. Ed was always up for a poker game, but eschewed anything tacky like wild cards and Texas Hold’em. Nope, Ed was always a 7-card poker man, playing the classic game every time. The five us us, Ed, my cousin Stephen Hartshorne, my former colleagues Don Gibson and Dave Chouinard rounded out the table.  I had some of the best poker games with Ed and these guys by my side.  We played our regular game for twenty years together.

Dave, Max, Steve, Don and Ed at the poker table.
Dave, Max, Steve, Don and Ed at the poker table.

Ed Valerio was teller of stories with a long and winding trajectory. But boy I enjoyed hearing them, some stories I might have heard more than a few times but others were solitary in their ability to keep me on the edge of my seat throughout the telling.  I could count on Ed to share the details of the Battle of Gallipoli, or the details of the Treaty of Versailles, or what it was like to go down in a small plane in Laos in 1963. Yup. He knew everything.

I could ask him the most arcane questions and he’d so often just know the answers. He lectured in England for many years about the topics that he researched that interested him like the battle formations of Roman legions and how migration affected the ancient world.

I met Ed in 2000, when both of our sons were attending Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School.  We had sons the same age, and it didn’t take me long to gravitate to him and begin wanting to hang out…we got on from the earliest days.

We began a twenty-year history of having lunch together, almost always to a different restaurant each time. He encouraged me to create a little banner that said “Lunch with Max” that we could put in the reviews I’d publish on my blog. I swear we went to every single joint in Amherst over the years.

I used to join Ed with several other men I liked to lunch with but then he told me privately that he liked it better when it was just the two of us. So we’d set out and spend time talking and talking, catching up but more than that. We delved deep into what we were thinking and feeling, and we were never afraid to ask probing questions.

Those personal conversations meant a lot to me, there was nobody like him in my life and I doubt there ever will be.  Goodbye old friend!