March 1, 2012
San Diego Union Tribune
From prolific poet to pizza artisan — his pie topped with potatoes and porcini mushrooms was a winner in the 1996 KPBS Pizza Lovers Bake-Off — Fred Moramarco was, as friends described him, “all things.”
“He was a teacher, a playwright, a scholar, an actor, an editor, a film buff, a book reviewer, a gourmet cook, and a connoisseur of martinis,” said Beck Peacock, who said his friend was, above all, a poet. “A poet is interested in everything. Even if he’s not interested, he’s interested in not being interested.
“There wasn’t anything Fred wasn’t involved in.”
That included baseball. In 1994, the professor emeritus of English and comparative literature at San Diego State University read his ode to Tony Gwynn to 45,000 people at the Padres’ home opener — to wild applause.
“It was great,” Peacock said. “It was quite in a sense out of character for an opening day baseball game where a guy stands at home plate and reads a poem, but Fred was from New York City and brought up with the baseball tradition of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“He could be quite earthy and sports-minded. It worked.”
Dr. Moramarco died of a heart attack Feb. 13 at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, just hours after playing the part of a patient for a class of UCSD medical students. He was 73.
Throughout his 40-plus-year tenure at SDSU, Dr. Moramarco was author and editor of several books, including “The Poetry of Men’s Lives,” “Men of Our Time,” and “The City of Eden.” With his son, Stephen, he penned “Italian Pride: 101 Reasons to Be Proud You’re Italian,” and the cookbook, “Deliciously Italian,” containing recipes from Apulia, Italy, his family’s ancestral region. In 1995, he became the founding editor of the literary magazine Poetry International.
Fred Stephen Moramarco was born July 13, 1938, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the youngest of four children to Stephen Moramarco and Nina Toriello. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English and American literature from Long Island University in 1964, and his doctorate in American literature from the University of Utah in 1968. In 1969, he became an assistant professor in the English Department of what was then San Diego State College.
He pursued his passion for the theater with the same boundless energy he devoted to poetry. He acted, directed, and produced, appearing in productions at the Old Globe, The San Diego Rep, Sledgehammer, and Diversionary Theatre, among other companies. He also cofounded, and was artistic director, of Laterthanever Productions, a regional theater company that created outside-the-box drama.
“Food, wine, theater, women and song certainly covers the nature of the man,” said Kathy Jones, an SDSU colleague who cofounded Laterthanever with Dr. Moramarco. “It’s a great loss for the poetry community, the theater community, the academic community.
“He was bigger than life.”
Dr. Moramarco is survived by his wife Clarissa of Bankers Hill; sons Stephen of Los Angeles, and Nicholas of Mogro, Spain; two grandchildren; and first wife, Sheila Sobell of Reno, Nev.
Details for a March 18 memorial service are pending. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to San Diego Hospice.