Luciano Roberto Duse, 80, of Petoskey, passed away on Wednesday, July 6, 2022, at The Hiland Cottage in Petoskey Michigan, holding his daughter's hand, under hospice care. He was born on December 10, 1941, in Venice Italy, the only child of Eugenia (Totolo) and Mario Duse.
Born amidst World War II, where food rations left Venetians in dire straits, Luciano told the story of the small bakery that sat across the narrow Venetian street, who would send loaves of bread across the laundry line and up to his parents apartment, knowing there was a new baby to feed.
A poor family, his father hand-tailored suits in his shop while his mother stayed home. You could find Luciano playing soccer in the square with his friends, using a soccer ball made of bunched up newspaper wrapped with string or at the water's edge, fishing.
On Sundays young Luciano was an Altar Boy at Chiesa Santa Maria Formosa near his home, where his daughter would later be baptized and his grandson would be told the stories as he visited on his first birthday.
A fisherman from a young age, he was an expert spearman, fishing on the Islands of Pellestrina and Lido. Luciano’s love and skill for this art became income for he and his friends as they sold the fish they caught to local Trattorias.
If you have shared a glass of wine with Luciano you may have heard the infamous story of the night he and his friend Guido became local heroes when they stopped by a local Trattoria and the owner was desperate because she had no fish for the evening service. Luciano promised that he would be back soon and when he returned with buckets of freshly caught fish they were treated with dinner and wine for their grandiose act.
Luciano has always been known for his impeccable style, as a young man his father would tailor his suits and his mother would take great care to sew angelic medallions into his chest pocket for protection. Dressed to impress he began his career in photography, working for the Photo Serenissima shop, taking pictures of tourists in the Grand Cafes of San Marco square, when he was just a teenager.
Luciano served in the Italian Army when he was 18 years old, during his service he was invited to be the photographer at all of the grand ball and gala events. Returning to his bunk mates with great stories and a full stomach, he made sure to include his jealous comrades by bringing with him bottles of the finest wine that he may have snuck out of the events, a hero of the barracks every time.
On June 5th, 1965, a young tourist, Lynn McCartney (who spoke almost no Italian), was trying to beat the heat and find the beach. She approached this handsome local Italian photographer (who spoke almost no English), to ask for directions. Luciano looked at this beautiful young American woman and declared his work day was over, just so he could accompany her to Lido beach.
A week-long visit quickly turned into a summer-long love affair with great plans to move to France together, (the one language they both had in common), when a family emergency brought Lynn back to Petoskey in September. They wrote several letters back and forth, but it wasn’t two months before he couldn’t take it any longer and had to go find her.
Taking the train to Rome to pick up his Visa, he arrived at the American Consulate, only to find a sign reading “closed for Thanksgiving”. A week later he was on a plane to New York City, chasing the love of his life. Meeting in Detroit Lynn and Luciano traveled to Petoskey where they were married at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Christmas Eve 1965.
Luciano was met with many culture shocks, from snowy winter weather, to learning how to drive a car, to finding out that you couldn’t order wine with lunch at Jesperson's pie shop. By far, the biggest hurdle was learning English which made finding work a challenge at first.
Accompanying him to job interviews, Lynn would try and translate in French for her new husband and after a short stint in construction (that did not go well) he was hired by the Symons family to work the dark room at Boyne Mountain. Soon after he transferred to Boyne Highlands where, in addition to the dark room, he was the staff photographer for the winter skiers and the summer conventions.
Later Luciano would work as a photographer at the Petoskey News Review, which led to opening his own gallery on Lake Street in Petoskey, where he operated his very successful and sought-after business for almost 40 years. Luciano was passionate about and known for his award-winning wedding photography and senior portraits, over the years thousands of senior pictures were captured, ironically both of his own children graduated without a picture in the yearbook at all.
Luciano moved from portraits and weddings to find his focus on landscapes from around the world. Traveling with his son Mario through Europe, Cuba, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey, Czech Republic, and the United States, he captured treasured images that have found their homes on walls all across the world.
Luciano spent much of his career selling his work at prestigious art fairs throughout America, receiving many awards for his portrait and landscape photography. His iconic four seasons photograph of Petoskey will live on in many people’s memories and still to this day hanging upon their walls.
Known, endearingly as Pops by his kids and all of their friends, Nonno by his Grandson, and Luch, Luchy and Mr. Luciano to so many others. The image of him walking down Lake Street to and from his daily lunch at the Perry Hotel, in his tailored 5 piece suit and hat, with a cigarette in hand, and his thick Venetian accent greeting every stranger as a friend, will be imprinted in the minds of anyone lucky enough to pass him by.
His love of photography was matched only by his love of animals, only ever shooting a deer through the lens of a camera. Family pets have always been family members to Luciano. Giovane the family cat, and an especially treasured part of his life, went missing for three days during the January thaw back in the 90s. Pops would leave work every evening in desperation to drive the neighborhood searching for her. After many sleepless nights of calling for her and agonizing about her absence, a neighbor called one morning, shortly after sunrise, when she heard a cat’s meow in the loft of their garage. In hope and disbelief a small search party was sent and low and behold Giovane was found. Luciano proclaimed “it was better than winning the lottery”. Nearly 25 years later this remains one of the most told stories and emotionally profound moments of Luciano's life.
Luch’s heavy Italian accent played such a part in the stories that he told. He had a nickname for everyone, he had his own made-up language that would bring laughter to all around. New names for people, places and things that made sense sometimes only to Luciano and made him ever more endearing and hilarious to everyone else.
He loved to laugh. He loved scary movies, taking his 7-year-old daughter to see Jaws in the theater was a highlight and instilled a love of horror movies in Marnie's life just like Pops. He loved music, his favorite artist was David Bowie and he left this world listening to Space Oddity on his way out. Something he would have thought was fitting, freaky and funky. He loved smoking. He loved wine. He loved cheesecake.
Quirky, unique, talented, charismatic, charming, a one-of-a-kind and fun-loving Italian man. His presence was a force. He will forever be an icon in the photography community and to all those that had the great privilege to know him.
Luciano is survived by his wife of 57 years, Lynn (McCartney) Duse; his children, Mario (Krista) Duse and Marnie (Kristin) Duse; Grandsons Hayden, Britton (Belfy) and Malcolm Fox Duse; his sister in-law, Celia McCartney Mundt; his brother in-law, Abbott McCartney (Sigi Block); his nephew Andrew (Allie) Mundt; Great nephew and niece, Simon and Audrey; his best friend Mike Harrington; and his faithful Greyhound Giorgio.
He was preceded in death by his mother and father, Eugenia Totolo and Mario Duse; his mother-in-law Edna McCartney Danser; and his four lifelong best friends Giorgio, Franco, Guido, and Gigio.
A party in celebration of Luciano’s life will be held at a later date. Luciano’s family will be forever grateful to the nurses and staff at Hiland Cottage for their unwavering love and care of their “cheesecake eating, wine drinking, favorite Italian man”, Luciano.
Memorial donations may be made to Hiland Cottage Hospice House in memory of Luciano Duse.
Arrangements are in the care of Stone Funeral Home.
360 Connable Avenue, Petoskey MI 49770