On May 9, 2017, “Captain Gene” of Key West, FL passed away. This is atribute to 35 years of friendship.
We met Memorial Day weekend, 1982 in beach house in Delaware. I was invited into the house by some college buddies who were living in the DC area; you had been in various beach houses for years. It would become my summer routine for the next nine years. Leave work on Friday, spend the weekend at the beach (where I grew up in New Jersey we call it the “shore”) and then head home on Sunday. During that summer our friendship grew as we learned we had a lot in common. We grew up about 30 minutes from each other and we were big New York sports fans. At the end of that summer as I was planning the next stage of my life, you along with others, helped convince me to moveto DC and 34 years later, I’m still here.
Our friendship endured as our lives changed. You dropped out of the beach house, bought your first boat and took a summer off to study for another state bar exam. I took over running the house, where I met and started dating my wife of 27 years.
In the fall of 1987, you took a job with a California law firm. We packed all your belongings in your Chevy Blazer and headed west. Along the way we saw four major league baseball games and a NFL game in what we called the “Ultimate Sports Weekend.” We discussed and argued about everything and after nine days in the car together, we barely spoke to each other when we reached Santa Monica. Six weeks later you were back in DC and our friendship resumed as if you never left. Our lives continued to develop and so did ourfriendship. You moved back to California; I got married and started a family. We kept in touch via telephone calls, Christmas cards and occasional visits although I seemed to find more reasons to visit southern California than you did to visit DC. Must have been the weather.
Years later you moved to Florida. You gave up the law business to buy a boat and become a captain. Talk about a change: from suits to shorts and a t-shirt. You not only built a successful business but you became a legendary figure, evolving from Gene the attorney to Captain Gene of Key West.
When you called in March to tell me you were selling the boat, I didn’t think anything was awry. You sounded upbeat and positive and you told me you were ready to move onto the next stage in your life. “Well, at least you’re still healthy”, I said. You told me you weren’t. A much-delayed trip to Key West became of paramount importance to me. When your brother called to tell me you were declining rapidly, I booked a flight and a hotel for the next day.
You lived your life as you pleased without worrying about what other people thought. You literally became a character in a Jimmy Buffet-like song. (Google Tim Williams Captain Gene.) As we became older our friendship became stronger. Even though we hadn’t lived close to each other in 28 years, we remained in contact regularly. When I came to visit you that last weekend, your buddy Mark remembered me as the guy who drove cross country with you all those years ago. I didn’t realize you were still telling those stories.
Our friendship taught me many things. Respect and loyalty is more important than geographical convenience. You also helped make me a better financial advisor. You were one of my “richest” clients, not in terms of net worth but as to what money means. You weren’t happy making good money as a lawyer so you reinvented and adjusted your lifestyle. Having the most of anything wasn’t important to you; being happy was and you accomplished that goal.
On my 30th anniversary of living in DC, I sent you an email thanking you for all the years of friendship and for helping me make the decision that literally changed my life. Your response was “You’ve been a true friend for a long time. That’s the best compliment I can think to give you.” I can’t think of a better response to say to you. Rest in peace, my friend. I’m going to miss you.