Julia Louis-Dreyfus is paying tribute to the late Sidney Poitier, who died at age 94 on Thursday.
Louis-Dreyfus shared a black and white photo of the actor on Instagram, recalling a story of a brief encounter with Poitier when she was a child.
“In the middle of the night, when I was 8 years old, I was given a white rose by the most elegant man I would ever meet,” she wrote. “I was in Tunisia traveling with my family — my father worked with the 60’s equivalent of Doctors Without Borders.”
The former “Seinfeld” star recalled the evening in great detail, remembering it was the night Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969. She continued her story, writing, “At 2 in the morning, my mom woke me up and, in our nightgowns, we went to the lobby of the Tunis Hilton where they had set up a little black and white television on which at 2:56 am, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.”
“Afterwards, we headed outside to look up through the hot summer night at the never-again-the-same moon in the sky,” Louis-Dreyfus added. “What could possibly top THAT? Well, it was when we returned to the lobby, and that handsome elegant stranger gave to me and each woman present a white rose to commemorate this historic evening.”
That “handsome elegant stranger,” as it turned out, was none other than Poitier.
“My mom, in something of a swoon, explained to me that this was not just any man, this was Sydney Poitier,” she concluded the caption. “What a gesture. What a gentleman. Rest in peace.”
Poitier had a groundbreaking career in the entertainment industry as one of the last remaining legends from Old Hollywood. In 1964, he became the first Black male actor to win an Oscar for his performance in “Lilies of the Field.” Throughout his career, he was awarded numerous honors, including a Grammy, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild lifetime achievement award, and an honorary Academy Award for his contributions to cinema in 2001.
Over the weekend, celebrities honored the late actor on social media. Many shared touching personal messages of their appreciation for Poitier, while others recalled their own interactions with the actor over the years.
Viola Davis shared a photo on Instagram from the 2011 Governors Awards presentation where she and her husband, Julius Tennon, posed alongside Poitier and his daughter, Sydney Tamiia Poitier. In the caption, she penned a heartfelt caption about the impact Poitier made on her life and career.
“This is a big one. No words can describe how your work radically shifted my life,” she wrote. “The dignity, normalcy, strength, excellence and sheer electricity you brought to your roles showed us that we, as Black folks, mattered!!!”
“You told us, ‘If your dreams do not scare you, they’re not big enough’! I put this quote on my daughter’s wall,” Davis continued. “Rest well Mr. Poitier. Thank you! Thank you for leaving a legacy. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
“Selfishly, I wanted to hold them both captive for the hours long trip as I literally sat at their feet and listened to their wisdom and experiences,” he wrote in part. “It was life changing. All I can say is thank you for your life, thank you for your example, and thank you for your incredible gift. But most of all, thank you for being willing to share YOU to make us all better.”