One day back in 1967, a good friend of now local Shirley Brunelli asked her to don a dress and twirl around for a bit so he could snap some photos to use for a painting. The painter, Edward Runci, was known as a highly skilled artist, and later sold the painting to Brunelli. She paid on it for about three years before he forgave the rest of the debt as a gift to her.
Brunelli says the dress he handed her was a black silk Christian Dior dress, and she has the photos of her posing in the dress, which Runci gave her sometime afterward.
She and her family lived at that time in Big Bear Lake, Calif., on the shore of the lake in a house with a dock.
Runci was one of her neighbors, and a friend who Brunelli helped out by watching the house while Edward, his wife Maxine, and their daughter Drienne were away. She made sure no one broke in and took one of the valuable paintings the Runcis had around the house.
Brunelli was also partly responsible for Maxine’s welfare. She recalls Maxine often wasn’t well, and would put her to bed and close the door sometimes during parties the two would attend.
Edward Runci, whose wife Maxine was also a skilled painter, often taught art classes of which Brunelli took a few. Brunelli recalls him as a disciplinarian, who wanted something done the way he wanted it. As a former police officer, Runci could cut an intimidating figure.