Today's paper notes the passing of Carmen DeCarlo, one of the best people I've had the honor knowing during my 16 years in Billings. Carmen's wife, Mary, worked with my wife, and we started doing things with them not long after we moved here. Carmen's obituary mentions his handmade horse-racing games and his spaghetti sauce and meatballs. The horse-racing game was a home-plate-shaped piece of wood with 11 horses on it and you shook dice to move them toward the "finish line." It was a low-stakes (nickels and dimes), high-thrill game, suitable for all ages. His spaghetti sauce was, I can say without fear of contradiction, the best spaghetti sauce in the world, and his meatballs were even better, if that makes any sense. A night at Carmen and Mary's, playing the horse-racing game and eating Carmen's spaghetti, was a night to treasure. I'm not sure what we did to deserve it, but we also got ourselves on the list of people to whom Carmen and Mary would deliver spaghetti sauce and meatballs. He'd cook them up in an enormous kettle, put the mix in jars and deliver it to friends all over the valley. I believe Carmen usually drove and Mary delivered the jars to porches and doorways. They preferred to make the deliveries without fanfare, just leaving them there for their delighted recipients to find. Carmen would accept your thanks, but he could almost get angry if you attempted to do something for him in exchange for the gift. It was his pleasure, and that was that. Carmen was opinionated about everything and he couldn't wait to unburden his thoughts on you, but no matter how much he railed against politicians, frauds and hypocrites, he always maintained a sense of humor. I'll miss his thoughts, his humor and his spaghetti sauce more than I can say.
A good man gone