Enduring Friendships: Roommates withstand the test of time
By MARY JO WINTER / Cloverdale TOWNS correspondent
In many ways, Cynthia DeMartini and Sydney Sciaini are exact opposites, but their close friendship has endured for nearly 40 years.
Sciaini, 63, grew up in Cloverdale on Pine Mountain and was a single parent working at Ace Hardware in the mid 70’s when DeMartini, 67, first came to town.
DeMartini had moved here in hopes of landing a job at the local library after learning that the assistant librarian would soon be retiring.
In the meantime, she took a part time job at Ace Hardware and the two became good friends. Since both were single and barely scraping by, they decided to pool their meager resources and become roommates.
Not being a morning person, DeMartini often enjoyed being able to sleep in. Sciaini, on the other hand, would be up early, puttering around the kitchen washing dishes and doing laundry. When DeMartini would finally come out to the kitchen to see what was going on, Sciaini would greet her with a smile and a cup of hot coffee.
Ever the librarian, DeMartini couldn’t help but circle misspelled words on their grocery list in red ink.
“Living with Cynthia enriched my life in ways I never could have imagined,” muses Sciaini. “Thanks to her, I now know how to spell spaghetti.”
To make ends meet, DeMartini also worked part time as a waitress and as a hostess at one of the wineries. One day she came home and told Sciaini she had met the man she was going to marry. Five years later, her prophesy came true. She and attorney Jim DeMartini have now been married for 32 years.
During the holidays in 1977, the two hosted a party DeMartini nicknamed the “Orphan’s Christmas Eve,” inviting friends who didn’t have family nearby for a Christmas Eve party.
Sciaini recalls, “We hung stockings by the fireplace, filling them with candies and little trinkets, mostly recycled, which Santa then handed out to each guest. We didn’t have much money to spend on food, so we made a huge pot of corn chowder.”
All these years later, DeMartini and her husband still host the annual Christmas Eve party, serving as many as 70 guests homemade abalone chowder and lobster ravioli.
Currently, the two best friends are taking French lessons in anticipation of going to France in a couple of years. They are hoping this trip will be more successful than some of their past vacations, one in particular.
Thinking it would be a fairly inexpensive getaway, they once decided to take Sciaini’s young daughter on a camping trip to the coast for a few days. Sciaini packed up her VW bus, met DeMartini when she got off work at 9 p.m., and the threesome headed for Gualala.
Setting up camp for them meant eating at a real table with real dishes, not paper or plastic, and using a real tablecloth. They even had ceramic chicken salt and pepper shakers.
In the course of two days, they set up camp at about four different places between Gualala and Fort Bragg because DeMartini kept saying “It just doesn’t feel right.” When asked where she wanted to go, she told Sciaini they should probably just head to the ranch on Pine Mountain, which they did, arriving at 2 a.m.
Sciaini remembers DeMartini taking 45 books with her because she couldn’t decide which one to read.
Both have had successful careers. In addition to her long time job at the Cloverdale Library, DeMartini also worked at Toyon Books in Healdsburg and at a local nursery. As a Master Gardener, she also taught Composting and Vermiculture classes. She currently serves on the Library Advisory Board.
Sciaini, who married her long time boss and friend Bob Sciaini in 1984, co-owned the Ace Hardware store with him until 1991 when they sold it. Currently, she owns Antiques & Uniques, a 14-year old antiques and gift collective on S. Cloverdale Blvd. A founding member of the Cloverdale Soroptimists, she was one of those instrumental in putting on the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Citrus Fair for many years.
DeMartini calls Sciaini “the perfect friend,” and Sciaini says DeMartini is “the most wonderful person on earth.”
Sciaini says she is in awe of DeMartini because she is so well read and makes her question things she would normally take at face value. “She is a really analytical thinker and I admire that.”
DeMartini, on the other hand, says she is sometimes intimidated by Sciaini’s ability to put together a piece of equipment, run a tractor, decorate a room and even sing at a friend’s funeral.
Over the years, they have shared every kind of life experience, from marriage and divorce, to birth and death.
“Whenever there has been any kind of emotional crisis, the first person I see when I look up is Cynthia,” says Sciaini, “and visa-versa.”
Whether they are blinded with tears of sadness or joy, the two say their friendship will always endure because they respect and trust each other explicitly.