Franco Balzarotti is now resting in peace.
His name will always be recalling me the excitement of the beginnings of my research. I had just started looking for the relatives of various manufacturers, and strolling through pages of patents. My discoveries were already not of everyone’s taste. So much happy I was to have the luck of Lucio Del Piccolo noticing me. He subsequently and quite spontaneously brought Franco to my attention.
It was like a sparkle.A little phrase of Lucio starting with… I know someone who knows the son of…Followed by, what I call a “Global Warning”: be patient, he is passionate (in my language, back then, that meant: difficult to handle / complicated), basically nothing is won …
After a first email in September 2010 translated by Lucio and written with much care, it took Franco a month to answer. A few getting-to-know emails followed. And these were very positive! “I’ll do everything I can to help you” “I’ll talk about this with Alfredo” “I will get back to you when I know” and “I will try all my best so you can meet Alfredo”. It was clear that his heart too was beating for the story of these coffee makers. His interest, in fact, in the following years never faded. The last email I received on the 25th February 2018 be proof “…questa è l’ultima Atomic trovata…”
Most of the communications at that time passed through Lucio who – more than translated – found the right wording, not knowing that it would be decisive for my dream to finally become true.
The contrast couldn’t have been bigger at that time between the expertise/fights of trolls on the internet, and our two little selves asking the families of the manufacturers, each on our side, enriching each other. It was a very special feeling.
On the 5th of January 2011, I wrote Franco I would be coming to Milan in February… and that this could be an opportunity. On the 17th, he informed me that I should come and visit him at home.
When Franco picked me up at the train station in the surroundings of Milan, accompanied by a friend-translator Roberto (who will have much to laugh about in the following hours), he surprised me telling me we were now on our way to pick Alfredo up. We all were like happy little kids (our age difference that he noticed didn’t matter) giggling around. I handled my findings (documents) to Roberto and he showed them to him while driving. Franco’s face triggered a laughter. I saw Franco relax then. I think he knew that the coming meeting might become “interesting”. And then he introduced me to Alfredo Robbiati as “a friend of ours”, to which Robbiati junior replied “your friend, not mine”. The jokiness went through during our entire talk. I can’t help smiling when I listen to the recordings I made… I surely don’t understand everything, but the atmosphere and the laughters render well the privileged and joyful situation we were in, drinking espresso, confronting Alfredo with information, discussing patents, documentation, asking technical questions… it was a unique experience.
The generosity Franco showed in my favor was out-of-this-world and took me by surprise.For my case, it was clear he understood that it was much more fun to share information, rather than both hiding stuff from each other. It was more than I hoped for. It has been 8 years of emails full of “look what I found” and trying to answer each other’s questions, sending each other’s documents or just New Year wishes and “How it the family doing?”
Maybe we got on well because we were on both extremes of the spectrum. I had quite a large amount of luck at researching. He was very good at finding – his “hidden” immense collection is the best example (known to the circle of collectors he was informing of his latest finds by his regular return-from-the-chase emails). That was him as well – you could feel the pride (and positive taunting) he enjoyed finding rare and sought items. And let’s say it frankly, that was very nervy too!
I will leave you with a last anecdote: Before travelling to Budapest, Franco asked me if I had any tip where he could find coffee makers. I gave him the address of a Flea Market and opening times, other than Ecseri as he requested. What did Franco find? Of course, what else than the item I have been dreaming of finding for years?! (and still do)
My sincere condolences to his family and friends.
I feel very lucky and privileged to have had him in my life.
Each one of us who knew him mourns her/his Franco, Mine was generous, curious and passionate.
I miss him deeply.