Meriden native and children’s author dePaola honored with Forever Stamp

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MERIDEN — On Monday night, moments before he unveiled what on Friday will become the newest Forever Stamp to be issued by the U.S. Postal Service, Mayor Kevin Scarpati had a few words to share. 

The stamp features the cover art of “Strega Nona,” written and illustrated by the late children’s author and Meriden native Tomie dePaola, who died in 2020. 

“I know Tomie has left a mark, not only in the city of Meriden, but throughout the entire world,” Scarpati said, describing it as a personal honor to be able to celebrate dePaola’s legacy through the stamp’s launch. Scarpati, like numerous others, was introduced to dePaola by way of his printed works in elementary school when Scarpati first read “Strega Nona.”

The mayor then called on Judith Bobbi, dePaola’s younger sister, to help him unveil the stamp issued in dePaola’s honor. 

The U.S. Postal Service, in issuing the stamp, described dePaola as a “prolific” author and illustrator “whose extraordinarily varied body of work encompasses folktales and legends, informational books, religious and holiday stories, and touching autobiographical tales.” dePaola is in esteemed company in the latest group of Forever Stamp honorees.

In late 2022, the USPS issued a Forever Stamp recognizing the life and legacy of the late civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis. Another stamp featured the Florida Everglades. 

“Strega Nona,” dePaola’s most famous book, alone sold several million copies.

Bobbi accepted the city’s recognition on her brother’s behalf. She said no matter the acclaim her brother received, he never forgot his roots. 

“Tomie always gave Meriden credit, no matter where he went, that this is where he came from. And this was his root. He went on to bigger and better things, but he always came back to Meriden,” Bobbi said. “... He appreciated everything that Meriden gave him.”

Leaders of the Meriden Library Board of Trustees, Kiwanis Club of Meriden, the Meriden Hall of Fame and Meriden Historical Society also gave their own remarks regarding the evening’s honoree. 

Joan Edgerly, now the president emeritus of the Meriden Library Board of Trustees, described a professional relationship with the late author that went back decades. One year, when Edgerly was a library media specialist at an elementary school in Berlin, her students wanted to recognize dePaola’s 60th birthday. The students wanted to draw him a large birthday card. 

The card they made, with the help of an artistic mother, also featured the cover of “Strega Nona” and drawings of the book’s characters. 

“And we did a video and I shipped it all off to Tomie. And after I mailed it, I thought uh oh. He always said, ‘Real artists didn’t copy.’ And here we were sending him all these copies.”

In actuality, Edgerly noted, dePaola was “gracious.” 

“He was very pleased to think that the students thought enough of him to want to send him congratulations,” she said. 

Local families will continue to have the opportunity to enjoy dePaola’s work, through a newly installed “Storywalk” along the Meriden Green’s Silver City Bridge. 

“So, now families all across the city, whether they never read ‘Strega Nona’ or read it a hundred times, can spend time in our parks and read the story together,” said Brian Cofrancesco, president of the Kiwanis Club, which sponsored the Storywalk. Cofrancesco noted the story’s text is printed in both English and Spanish. 



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