Arts legend Richard Demarco pays tribute to 'salonista' cousin from Edinburgh who ‘never lost her spark’
Arts legend Richard De Marco has paid tribute to his cousin Theo, a Notting Hill salonista from Edinburgh, who he said “never lost her spark right to the end.”
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Theodora di Marco passed away peacefully in her sleep at her London home, just a few days after hosting one of the soirees that she had become well-known for in cultural circles.
Richard Demarco CBE, her second cousin, said the 95-year-old ‘refused to live like an old person’ and enjoyed putting on lively gatherings of writers, artists and musicians.
He said she’ll always be remembered by friends, along with her identical twin sister Norma, for the events that he described as an alternative to the famously woman-led Parisian salons.
Theo was born in Edinburgh, daughter of an Italian restaurant owner and confectioner and she had three older brothers.
After graduating from Edinburgh University and teaching in private schools in Switzerland and Oxford, Theo went onto be a nun for three decades.
Norma became a professional cello player who helped found the Edinburgh Chamber Orchestra.
Theo later joined her twin sister Norma in London after her convent closed and the pair hosted guests at their Pembridge Road townhouse every Sunday, often playing as part of a string quartet.
Later they moved to a smaller home and Theo looked after Norma in her final years, who suffered with arthritis until she died in 2009.
Mr Demarco said Theo kept the sessions going and her love of music along with her ‘feisty’ spirit shone through right to the end.
He said; “She kept up the viola. Theo had this tremendous energy. Though she was a twin she was a one off. She had a robust intellect, curious about everything and took no prisoners. People were pulled in by her conversation. She would come out with unexpected comments. She broke every rule book in life.”
"It was impossible to believe that I was speaking to someone older than 90. Everything about her was outrageous, her dress sense and the dyed pink hair. To me she was a walking work of art. As she put it, she was like a boxer. She’d say you had to be ready to defend yourself but not afraid to land a punch. Beyond a tough exterior she was incredibly warm and generous.”
“Though they came from an Italian, Roman Catholic family, Theo and Norma both lived out in the wider world.”
"Theo once sent me a cheque out of the blue and told me she was always there to help. She was always on my side. But she would keep me on my toes too. She’d tease me for spelling our family name the French way, saying I was ‘in disguise’. She was so feisty and refused to live like an old person. She enjoyed her long life. I remember meeting up when she came to Edinburgh a few years ago. She was wearing pink crocs. She told my younger brother to live life like each day is a gift and a blessing. She never lost that spark. I will miss her. She gives me hope for the human condition.”
Mr Demarco will honour Theo’s memory in his memoirs and at Scottish premier of a film about his life screening this Thursday at the Cameo.