La Jolla man writes bio about wife of 58 years

Jack Talbot remembers the first time he set eyes on his wife nearly 60 years ago. “She was sitting on top of a piano singing, ‘Falling in Love with Love,’ ” said Talbot, 88. It was love at first sight. The couple got married a year later and went on to celebrate 58 wedding anniversaries. During those years, Talbot watched his wife’s singing career flourish as she performed on radio and TV and in Carnegie Hall in New York City. When his wife passed away in 2008, Talbot decided it was time to publish her story. Talbot will sign copies of his book, “The Lyrical Life of Angela Schimmenti Talbot,” at 2:30 p.m. April 25 at the Congregational Church of La Jolla.

“I feel I owe it to her to do this. She was a wonderful wife and a marvelous singer,” Talbot said.

The 75-page book is as much a family album as a biography. Talbot includes loads of photos, both personal and historic, taken during the decades they lived in Berkshire County, Mass., and La Jolla. The book is designed by Talbot’s niece, Marty Ittner, who has designed books for National Geographic.

“I feel it is important for families to record narratives,” Ittner said. “Told in Jack’s voice, the book encapsulates an era, and imprints his love for his wife of 58 years.”

Talbot, known to many in La Jolla for his insurance business, first got the idea to write a book about his wife’s life when they were on a cruise in the Panama Canal in 2003. He noticed that she was having trouble ordering from a menu, and eventually her memory problems became more acute as she showed signs of having Alzheimer’s. “I began thinking her life was remarkable and should be recorded,” Talbot said.

The book traces her roots back to 1903 when her father, John Schimmenti and his family, emigrated from Sicily to the United States.

Angela was born in 1927 and much of her childhood was spent on the East Coast in Long Island until she moved to La Jolla in the 1940s. She attended La Jolla High School for three years and graduated from Emily Johnson Duffy Ranch School in Fallbrook in 1945.

That same year, her mother married Gus Kinzel, who became director of the Salk Institute in 1975. Angela attended Wheaton College in Massachusetts and graduated cum laude with a degree in music in 1949. It was during her college years, when she was trying out for a show at a country club that Talbot first met her. The couple got married in 1949 and lived for 26 years in a small town in Western Massachusetts where their three children were born and raised.

Tragically, one of their sons died of leukemia when he was 13. “That was not easy, but we stuck together,” Talbot said. “Despite personal tragedy, she managed to do it all ...”

Like Talbot, Ittner also admired Angela, and that led to her collaboration on the book. “She had a tremendous influence on my life and an infectious joie de vivre which made people gravitate toward her. The thing I admired most was her creativity. In an era before Martha Stewart, Angela made beautiful home spaces without an interior decorator. She sewed drapes and matching bedspreads herself, cooked fabulous food, threw fun parties (without a caterer), and often entertained her guests by singing at the piano. She did this with Jack at her side: sous chef, bartender, money man, co-conspirator.

When asked the secret to a happy marriage, Talbot said, “I never looked at anyone else.”

“To have a happy marriage I think two people need to fully understand each other and do everything they can to please the other person.”

Ittner explained, “In the ‘50s and ‘60s, when women were expected stay at home, Jack had a progressive attitude, encouraging and supporting Angela in all her pursuits.”

In 1970, Angela was invited to sing early American songs from the George Washington era at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The couple moved to La Jolla in 1975, and Angela continued her singing career, performing at the Sherwood Auditorium and on KPBS. At the same time, Talbot continued his work in his insurance business, where he is still active.

“Her story needs telling, and in 100 years from now, I want our descendants and others to know this woman,” Talbot said.

Event information

  • What: Book signing of ‘The Lyrical Life of Angela Schimmenti Talbot’ by Jack Talbot
  • When: 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. April 25
  • Where: Congregational Church of La Jolla, 1216 Cave St., La Jolla
  • Book price: $45
  • Contact: (858) 454-9200