“Norman Roberson, beloved friend, colleague, and legendary presence at the American Academy in Rome for 20 years, passed away early in the morning of 29 May 2008,” reports AAR President Adele Chatfield-Taylor. “The cause of death was lung cancer. Norm had not been able to be at the Academy for several months, but he was never far from our thoughts and many Academy trustees, staff and fellows were often by his side.”
Norman Marcus Roberson played an unusually essential role in the life of the Academy. His formal title at the AAR was “Gate Reception”, and as such he made a wonderfully warm first impression on new Fellows, Residents and countless visitors that would last throughout one’s stay, and, for many, remain as an indelible memory of Rome.
But Norm also turned the Academy’s portineria into a portal to Italy and Italian life, history and culture as a whole. Dozens of academic books and articles thank Norm for his unfailing helpfulness in everything from obtaining hard-to-find camera film to sharing his (encyclopedic) knowledge of the topography and sights of Rome, Lazio and Tuscany. An avid student of Etruscology, Norm Roberson was the coauthor of Affreschi—Exploring Etruria (2001, with Mary Jane Cryan), as well as a contributor to multiple editions of The Rough Guide to Rome and The Rough Guide to Italy. He served in the US Marine Corps from 1960 to 1971.
For an illuminating (and yet unaired) radio interview that Norm Roberson granted before his illness, listen here (mp3 audiofile, 10 mins.). Radio producer Laura Friedman recorded this as a part of a program she is developing called “The Other Italy”. A superb obituary by British journalist Anthony Smith can be read in the electronic version of the The Roman Forum.
Adele Chatfield-Taylor in her announcement added that the Academy was to hold a memorial service at 5, Via Masina to celebrate Norm Roberson’s life at 5.00 PM on Thursday 24 July 2008. “All Trustees, Fellows, Residents and Friends of the Academy are invited to attend the service, or to send reminiscences to share with Norm’s family, either during the ceremony or in a guest book prepared for his daughters, Cory Cryer and Shelly Desmond.
Contributions are also invited for the Norman Roberson Book Fund in Etruscan Studies. His daughters thought it would please their father to have the Academy remember his scholarship, writing, friendship and the many happy trips and tours he took with members of the Academy family in this way.”
Contributions to the Norman Roberson Book Fund in Etruscan Studies may be sent to the American Academy in Rome, 7 East 60 Street, New York, New York 10022 USA, or made by visiting this site.