Obituary of Olivia de Castanos
Olivia de Castanos was born on December 25, 1952, in Manhattan, New York City. A Christmas baby, she was always miffed that her birthday got mixed up with the holidays. As a result, I, Dan Thomas, her husband, always made sure she got cards and gifts in recognition of both celebrations!
She died Wednesday, November 7, in the wee hours of the morning, the Hour of the Wolf, in St. Joseph’s Hospital, Denver, following an 11-hour surgery to repair damaged spinal cord tissue in her neck.
Her mother’s family was from Westlake, Louisiana; her father’s from New York City by way of Spain and South America. Olivia came with a Latin temper and a Southern earthiness when she let her guard down.
By profession, she was a writer and editor, excellent at both. In fact, as Dan Thomas writes this obituary he wishes Olivia could give it a thorough edit (she never did things in haste). “Do you mind if I make some changes?” she would ask me, knowing full well I realized any copy she edited would “sparkle” under her gifted touch. As a writer, my own ego went by the wayside, with good reason! “You just write too fast,” she would say. A great many other writers (journalists, advertising copywriters) she worked with throughout her professional career learned to trust and respect her editorial judgment.
As a young girl, Olivia attended the prestigious Convent of the Sacred Heart School in New York City. There, one of her classmates was Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy. Olivia’s mother, Charlotte, insisted her daughter go there. Olivia’s father, John, an attorney, had his misgivings. “I don’t want my daughter to end up a snob,” he remarked.
But Olivia was no snob. She loved people, and people loved her. All her life she battled to overcome her shyness, but you would never know it. She ended her life with meager savings in the bank, but wealth, and I mean a WEALTH of friends. She loved animals, especially dogs. Her father, who could be irascible at times, saw how his daughter related to dogs in Central Park and knew he was doomed to get “the kid” a pup. When a New Orleans uncle of Olivia’s, a merchant marine sea captain, visited the Big Apple with a doxie pup named Midnight in tow, Olivia’s parents knew they had a new member of the family. After Midnight, another dachshund would follow named Chocolate. Years later there would be Gizmo and finally Butternut, presently battling cancer and cocking her head in search of “Mom” every day.
Olivia grew into a beauty who loved cosmetics, jewelry, dressing up and purses…lots of purses, her husband now realizes. She could be vain about her looks, but deservedly so.
She held a Master of Arts degree in Communications Management (with distinction) from Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications/English Literature, cum laude, from the University of New Hampshire.
Her professional resume is accomplished. Out of college, she was a reporter/editor on the staff of Publick Occurrences, a historical New Hampshire weekly newspaper. She went on to be a senior writer/public affairs with the internationally renowned Lahey Clinic Medical Center, Burlington, Massachusetts. In Denver, she worked as an advertising copywriter with the famed Denver advertising agency Sam Lusky Associates, where she met me (I was immediately taken by her charming beauty) and many lifelong friends. Other Denver-based jobs included serving as Editor of Publications/Public Relations Office with the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and a quality control copywriter with Lipper Analytical Services, Inc. Her favorite Denver job as an editor with the legendary Rocky Mountain Business Journal. “Newspapering” was in her blood.
Her last Denver job found her a telemarketing fundraiser with Telefund. A job that might have seemed out of step for her, save for the important causes she served and the many warm friendships she made there.
She was first married to Robert Bisordi, an artist, someone she still cared about. We were married on August 18, 2001, years after we first met (I was an old fogey by then but “Liv” livened me up). The ceremony was witnessed by my parents, Pat & Jack Thomas, my brother David and Olivia’s mother Charlotte. Also present were the ashes of Gizmo the dog. After a wedding lunch at the Wellshire Inn, we honeymooned in Vail.
She talked of going to Europe—especially Paris, which she had visited with her Mom—but alas, it never was to be. We did make it to Manhattan twice though, once, sadly, for her father’s funeral. I loved meeting Olivia’s friends and relatives and visiting her schoolgirl haunts, like Sacred Heart and Central Park. Back to Denver, hot dates for us were getting our flu shots together at Kaiser or shopping at King Soopers every Friday. Nights found us ensconced with Butternut in our upstairs bedroom, watching classic movies on TCM. Olivia loved to talk back at the screen and make remarks about actors long since dead and turned to dust. “It’s just an old movie,” I would tell her. Olivia was a real night owl and would prod me when I fell asleep. “Don’t leave me alone,” she would say. Olivia had a child-like innocence that I admired and cherished. She took the death of her mother Charlotte very hard.
We had our ups and downs, our tough times, but it was a marriage too brief and filled with laughter and many, many joys. In all respects, she was my editor-in-chief. My heart will ache for her until the day I die.
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