My cousin, Jeffrey Smiley, passed away in 1988. He was 47. He was a captain in the Air Force and graduated from the Air Force Academy. He flew B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War. He contracted leukemia and died within a year. His funeral, in a military cemetery outside Washington, DC is something I will never forget. Jeff was not as successful in business as he was in the military. But he was a nice guy; a gentle soul with a great sense of humor and playfulness. I remember arriving at the gravesite for the cemetery. There were some people there already. But there were also a line of cars, entering the cemetery, as far as I could see. I bet, at the end of the day, there were more than 200 people there. The line of cars reminded me of that final scene in the movie, “Field of Dreams” or “Pay it Forward.” Jeff touched a lot of people.
Last night, there was “A Celebration of Life” in New York to honor Keith Barket, the managing principal of Angelo Gordon who passed away just before Christmas. Keith was 49. There were about 200 people there. The buzz as guests enjoyed drinks and h'ordeuvres was just like the buzz at any real estate get together only a little more so. It appeared to be somewhat of a who’s who of New York City commercial real estate although some folks travelled much further to be there. They came to celebrate the life of one of their fallen brothers in arms. The veterans among the throng had had more experience with dealing with the loss of a peer. After all, we’ve been around more years. What struck me was how many young real estate professionals there were. The next generation of real estate movers and shakers-some of whom were already making their impact on the industry. And there was solemnity in the buzz as well-another wake-up call to all to remind us of just how fragile this whole thing really is. With accidents, it’s hard; “It was just her time.” In battle, well, to me it’s all senseless, yet we don’t seem to be able to find ways to love rather than hate our fellow man. But with illness; illness is something else. Why do certain children die young? But youth is a relative thing. As, Bernard Baruch said, “I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.” But Keith, at 49, was way too young to be taken down and so quickly. Is it better to pass into the night quickly, quietly or to linger, to fight, to keep believing you can beat whatever the heck it is that has grabbed on to you…and won’t let go. When something like this happens, even to someone you only know casually or just by reputation, it’s time for some soul searching. One think I’ve recently decided is to become an organ donor. It was also prompted by a recent death-Christina Green, who died in that senseless shooting in Tucson. I read an article the other day about how her parents found some solace in knowing that Christina’s organs were helping others stay alive. And then, there’s simply the prioritization of things in life…
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know Keith Barket well but after listening to the speakers last night, I feel I know him better. Please allow me to share some of the statements made by people ranging from John Angelo, Michael Gordon, Peter Linneman, Aliana Spungen, Dean Adler, Young Woo, Keith L. Barket (father) and Sol Barket (brother).
· “When something was successful, he didn’t want the credit. But when something went wrong, he was the first to take responsibility….and learn from it.”
· “In all the years, I never heard one person in the industry say anything bad about him.”
· “He never put himself first.”
· “He loved seeing those around him do well. It’s not something he worked at…it’s just who he was.”
· “He was happiest when he was working and having fun at the same time.”
· “He had the ability to see the positive in people and not get caught up in their faults.”
· “He was inclusive by nature and fed off the energy of others.”
· “He helped me realize that arrogance has no place in life.”
· “The only things that matter are integrity, honesty and how to conduct ourselves. Keith had integrity, was honest and conducted himself properly.”
· Keith’s advice to a colleague: “The really big decisions in life you have to rely on your own judgment.”
· “He believed you always had to put yourself in your investor’s shoes; listen to the questions they’re asking; answer their questions in English, simply and directly, no mumbo jumbo.”
· “He was infectiously enthusiastic.”
· “He had the ability to forge friendships-real friendships and bring divergent groups together.”
· “He never veered far from who he was.”
· “He was a genuinely a good man and a fair person.”
· “He challenged people he really cared about-it was a push/pull type thing-it was a waste not to be the best you can be, he always said, if you fall, you fall forward.”
· “He lives on in the echo of his laughter.”
What will people say about us at our memorial services?
Restaurant of the week: L'Etoile, Madison, WI. A gem. Thanks to Kev and Marissa who said this was the best meal they had on their entire two-month car trip, Portland to Portland.
Another restaurant: Lola's, Cleveland, OH. First time I've seen an iPad wine list. Very cool....until someone who's had too much to drink drops it!
Final cool item: Aweditorium. Avery cool iPad ap that I learned about from a couple sitting next to me on the flight from Chicago to New York yesterday. I hadn't been thinking about getting an iPad but this music ap may change my mind.
On the road....
Jan. 28: New York; Umphrey's McGee in concert at the Best Buys (formerly Nokia) Theatre in Times Square (tickets still available)
Feb. 1-3: Laguna Nigel, CA to attend IREI's Fifth Annual VIP Conference.
Feb. 7-9: New York
Feb. 10-11: Chapel Hill, NC to be a judge in the University of North Carolina-Kenan Flagler Real Estate Challenge (Thanks to Dave Hartzell, who runs the real estate program, for the kind invite).
Feb. 14-18: West coast
Feb. 27-Mar.1: Santa Monica, CA to attend NAREIM's Senior Executive Officer's Meeting (National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers).
Mar. 16-17: Washington, DC for the PREA Spring Conference
Apr. 13-15: Venice to attend INREV's Annual General Meeting
May 12-14: North Palm Beach, FL for the annual meeting of the Homer Hoyt Fellows (no secret handshake required!)
June 9-10: London to moderate a panel at the PERE Forum.
Photo: Park Avenue, NYC, Jan 27, 2011
These are my views and not that of my employer.