As I was walking the streets of San Francisco tonight, an alert popped up on my phone, reminding me that it was two years to the day since my friend Joe Ferrara passed away after a short but gallant fight with brain cancer.
He’s been gone for two years. I only knew Joe for three years, but for those that knew and loved Joe, and they are many, every day was cherished. He was truly a world-class human being. Posted below is what I wrote a few days after Joe passed. I still can’t read it without both weeping like a baby, and smiling at all the great times we had.
Damn I miss that man.
(L-R: Joe Ferrara, me, Rudy Bachraty. Summer 2007)
Since Tuesday night, when I found out that Joe Ferrara had lost his courageous battle against a brain tumor, I have cried a river of tears. I’ve been looking through old photos and videos, reading comments left on Joe’s Facebook profile and the Friends of Joe Ferrara Facebook group and talking with mutual friends of Joe.
We are all devastated by his passing. It’s taken me almost two days to get enough of a grip on my emotions to write about Joe. I do this for my own mental therapy, and to hopefully share some things about Joe with those who weren’t fortunate enough to know him.
Like many, I first met Joe “In Real Life” when he and his business partner Rudy Bachraty went on a crazy cross-country tour in a logo plastered RV. That was “Blog Tour USA” in the summer of 2007.
I met them at their stop in Phoenix, which was near the end of the trip. When I opened the door to the RV, Rudy and Joe met me with big hugs, like we’d know each other for a while.
And really, we had. Through their blog Sellsius, and through on and off-line conversations, I felt like we were old friends. I got the grand tour of the RV, which took all of 12 seconds. Let me tell you, that thing was nasty – exactly like what you’d expect in an RV that two guys had been living in for three weeks.
But there is nothing nasty about Joe Ferrara. He was one of the smartest, funniest, kind and caring people I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. Joe would give a friend the shirt off his own back. Hell, I suspect he wouldn’t hesitate to step in front of a bullet for a friend.
When Francy and I opened our brokerage, Joe was one of the first people to call and congratulate me. I told Joe (who was an attorney, amongst many other things) that one of my biggest concerns was the legal liability that comes with owning a real estate brokerage. In typical fashion, he offered a lot of sage advice and said, “Jay, if you ever need me, I will get licensed in Arizona and fly down and represent you.”
And he would have. That’s the kind of man Joe Ferrara was.
I have so many great memories of Joe. Other than the Blog Tour, I don’t think we ever met outside of some sort of real estate conference. But every single time we talked on the phone, met in person, or emailed each other Joe would ask, “How’s Francy and the kids?”, “How’s business?”, “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
Joe always put other people’s needs ahead of his own.
After Joe got sick, I set up a fundraising effort to help Joe and his family with medical expenses. Through the generosity of his many friends, we raised almost $7,000 to help pay for his care. Joe’s wife Sandra, who I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting, called me and asked me to thank everyone for donating. Talking to her was an exceedingly difficult and emotional experience as Sandra was simply devastated by what was happening to Joe. Her love for him was painfully obvious, and I felt lost because there was nothing I could say would comfort her. But there she was, talking to a complete stranger because much like Joe, she felt the need to express her love for his friends. We laughed and cried together, and I sincerely hope one day I get to meet Sandra Ferrara in person.
A few weeks after that talk with Sandra, she called again. “Jay, I have someone that wants to speak to you,” she said. And she put Joe on the phone. He was obviously very sick, but in typical Joe fashion, he joked, “Jay, I can’t find the words sometimes. And that pisses me off. You know me, I don’t ever shut up.” Joe was overwhelmed with the support everyone was showing, and he felt bad that he couldn’t thank everyone personally. Joe, lying there dying, wasn’t thinking about himself, he was thinking about his family and his friends. Unbelievable. When I hung up from that conversation, I wept like a baby and told Francy that I was afraid it was the last time I’d get to talk to Joe.
And it was. But I cherish that conversation.
I cherish the memories too. There are too many to recount here, so I’ll end with one of my favorite memories of Joe.
We were walking together in Times Square and we stopped in one of those tourist traps that sells a little bit of everything. Joe picked up a ukulele and “tuned” it. Then he broke into song, singing the version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” that “Iz”, a Hawaiian singer made famous. Trust me when I tell you that Joe can not play the ukulele – at all. It was hysterical. As Joe “played” and sang and danced, I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants.
Now when I hear this song, which I’ve always loved, I smile and think of Joe.
Joe Ferrara was many things – an attorney, a speaker, a teacher, a writer, a businessman, an artist, a leader. Most importantly, he was a loving father and husband, and he was my friend. Rest in peace Joe. I’m happy you aren’t in pain any more. We will miss you terribly, but we will cherish the far-too-short time we had with you. You made the world a better place.