Friday, July 27, 2012

In Memoriam: Julian Stein

Julian  S. Stein , Jr.  was the son of Gertrude Stein’s first cousin. The Steiny Road Poet, a. k. a. Karren Alenier, met Julian through his daughter Denny at Christmas time, months after the premier of Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On. Through an article on the Internet that talked about the house on Linden Avenue in Baltimore where Gertrude lived at age 16 with her maternal aunt’s family, the Steiny Poet contacted and met Denny. Linden Avenue was a street the Poet had lived at age five.

Visiting Julian in his house in the Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood of Baltimore was like coming home to my family. Denny stood in front of a hall mirror and asked if she did not resemble Gertrude? She did and I told her so. Denny said her family were Christmas Jews who always had stockings filled with little gifts. There may have been a Christmas tree in the living room. I find I cannot remember this because once my mother had put up a decorated tree in our Linden Avenue apartment and the next day my beloved great grandmother on my mother’s side came to visit. She took one look at the tree and turned on her heel and left, saying she was not coming back until the Christmas tree was gone. My step-father was from the German Jewish community of Baltimore and was very assimilated. Like Julian he was a junior, having the same name as his father (a practice not common in Jewish tradition where children are named after deceased relatives).  In appearance, my dad’s relatives looked much like Julian. The day of my visit, Julian and Denny showed me a short movie that showed Julian as a child walking hand-in-hand with Gertrude in France.

I last saw Julian in October 27, 2011, at the opening night of the Insight & Identity: Contemporary Artists and Gertrude Stein exhibition at the Stanford in Washington Art Gallery on Connecticut Avenue in Washington DC.  I was surprised and delighted to see him and he was ever cheerful and engaged in all that was going on at this fabulous party.

On the spur of the moment, I called Julian weeks before his death to talk about what happened to Gertrude after she died. I was working on an article about that and had just completed a particularly difficult interview with a woman who knew Gertrude's partner after the great Modernist had died. Sounding strong and clear, he was adamant about how the Edgar Allan Poe lawyers of Baltimore had failed to help Alice Toklas after Gertrude died.

Julian S. Stein, Jr. died June 22, 2012, at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Memorial celebrations for Julian Stein will be held on Saturday, August 4, 2012 in Rangeley, Maine and on Saturday, October 6, 2012 in Baltimore, MD. Inquiries may be directed to the family.