my last email
Eulogy for my dear friend, John Carnevale
Anthony and Joanne – I know ... it’s not supposed to happen like this. I can’t fathom losing a child at any age.
Linda, Max and Ava – From the depths of my heart, I am so sorry, but thank you for sharing John with me.
Jim – I have a brother, and I can only imagine the emptiness you must feel.
But I know all of you must be truly amazed by the outreach of sympathy and tribute for John, not only from friends and acquaintances, but from people you barely know, because that is what I have personally seen. And yesterday was truly “epic” – none of us had ever seen anything like it – one commenting that it was almost “Presidential-like.”
For those of you here today that know me, thank you for your outreach. It was touching and truly helped in a time of deep sorrow.
For those of you who don’t know me, John and I had a unique and very special friendship.
We didn’t grow up next door to one another – we grew up almost half a continent apart.
We weren’t best friend in high school, or roommates in college.
We didn’t meet until we were in our 30’s, and I don’t even remember the first time we met, although John always did,
We didn’t call each other every day, or every-other day, or every week, or even every month.
In fact, we could go months without even communicating – which I now regret.
When we did communicate often it was by text – about cars, boats, or a good red wine that one of us had discovered.
Most often it was by email, and generally many of those had to do with the common business we were both in.
Realize that we often didn’t answer each other’s text or email – nor was it expected. We were just “touching base.”
I called us “Twin Sons from Different Mothers” – separated at birth and not reunited until almost mid-life.
We were together with our wives and several of our children just last week in southern Georgia at an industry study group, and we are supposed to be together right now in Miami at a Fidelity Advisory Board Meeting.
Let me read you the last email I received from John.
DATE: Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at 2:03 PM
SUBJECT LINE: Great to see you.
Sorry I had to leave so fast. I was looking for you at the pool down by the beach. We are headed to the airport now.
The program was terrific. I really got a lot out of it. I think you and I will have the right model to succeed in the new era of Fiduciary regs. I’m sure we will know more when we see each other next week in Miami. Say goodbye to Tempest, Abbey, Emily, Grant, and your parents for us.
I didn’t respond – I knew I would see him in a week.
The following Sunday my family and I were in the Jacksonville, Florida airport, on a plane ready to head home back up north. And then I got The Call, and I knew that I had to respond to John’s email. When we reached altitude and the Captain turned off the "Fasten Seatbelts" light, I got up and got my lap top and wrote the following.
DATE: Sunday, April 10, 2016 at 3:46 PM
SUBJECT LINE: Great to see you.
John – I’m on the plane flying home from Sea Island. Temp and the girls don’t know yet – they didn’t get upgraded -- and I think it would be best if I told them in a more private setting.
Linda called me just as the plane was finishing boarding. When I heard her voice I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t think you would be gone. Got a text from Meg just as I was putting all my devices into Airplane Mode. She loves you just as much as I do.
Right now I am absolutely numb. I want to cry but can’t find the tears. Perhaps it’s best that I am somewhat secluded – away from anyone I know – while I write you this one last email.
I truly believe that people only make a few lifetime friends – you know, the kind that you just “click” with – that you could tell anything to; that you could always trust – the kind that you would like to grow old with. You are one of those friends. In fact, at this point in my life you’re my best friend even though there are still a lot of things we haven’t shared yet – not more business stuff, but things more personal. I always thought that we would finally have time to have those talks during our retirement years.
My wife calls you my “Bro-Friend.” I guess I’m comfortable with that, because she always says it with a smile. And my kids all adore you – they think you’re funny. I can’t really explain our “Bromance” – maybe it’s because we both came from humble beginnings; or because we both love boats, Beemers, and baseball games. Or maybe it’s because we both got married on the same date; or we have children the same age. Maybe it’s because we sit in the same chair of two very similar companies, and can “relate” to one another. Maybe it’s because we both have a true passion for our industry, and absolutely love going to work every day; or maybe it’s because we both drive our staff crazy with the “next Big Idea.” Or maybe it’s just because we are both unabashed Republicans living in two very liberal high-tax states. I mean ... how do explain an extrovert Italian from Massachusetts and an introvert German/Norwegian from Minnesota forging such a bond when we barely get to spend any time together? We just “click.”
I can’t tell you how much I look forward to the Spring and Fall, because that is when I know I will actually see you at Fidelity meetings, RADA, Relius and ABG meetings. It’s too bad we spend so much time talking business, even though I really enjoy those discussions. You are truly an industry leader, boldly centering your firm on what you call the “99%” – the little guys that desperately need our help, yet most in our industry feel they can’t afford to service. You are a true Pioneer in our business.
And you’ve built a great staff to carry on your vision. I know they will miss you, and wonder what will happen to Sentinel in your absence. But they know and feel that you truly love them; that you empower them; and new leaders will rise from within, and they will constantly ask themselves “What would John do?”; and like you they will make the decision that is always based on your highest ideals of honesty and integrity and what is in the best interest of the client.
You frequently tell the story of how we first met at a Fidelity conference out West, and how the presentation I made there had a lasting impact on you – how you wanted to be just like me. I was always very humbled by that, but somewhat embarrassed, because I borrowed, plagiarized, or stole all your best ideas and applied them to my firm. I often ask myself and my staff, “What would John do?”
Let’s face it – you and I have never been short of ideas – and my weaknesses seem to be your strengths; and my strengths are probably your weaknesses. Maybe that’s the secret to US – we complement one another. Maybe that idea we had on the ski slopes of Jackson Hole over 15 years ago about putting our firms together would have truly been magical!!!
I know your family is going to miss you the most. I could hear the pain in Linda’s voice when she called me; but I know how much you love her – how you always call Linda your Best Friend. And though I don’t know Max and Ava as well, I have always seen not just the deep love in their eyes when they look at you, but also the respect and admiration. And I know that you have set a foundation for them to succeed in whatever they choose in life; and when life gets tough they will ask themselves, “What would my Dad do?”
I know we are all going to get together later this week for your Going Away Party. I know you won’t want tears, but by then the numbness will be gone, and I know I, like many others, will cry. But I promise you I will do my best to make it a celebration of a life well-lived and the impact you had on all of us. I will give Nick a big hug for you – I really like that guy and I know he will miss you terribly. And I know you don’t like my beard, but the Romance in my life – my wife Tempest – likes it. She thinks it makes me look younger, and what she likes she gets – and hopefully often!!! So I’m NOT shaving it for the event!
I wish we would have gone on that trip to Italy together with the girls like you always wanted. I wish I would have taken the time to come to your 50th birthday party. I wish you would have hiked the Grand Canyon with me last year. I wish I could have shown you “redneck lake boatin” on Lake of the Ozarks this summer.
But now it’s time to hit the call button for the flight attendant, because I need a drink. Did I tell you I got upgraded again? I know you were always bitter about that while you sat way in the back of the plane, sandwiched in a middle seat between two enormous guys. I probably should have a Bud Light in your honor, because I really do Love You, Man; but that would contain gluten and I know that is definitely off your list. So instead I think I will have a nice Cabernet – big, bold, robust, but slightly peppery – just like my Best Friend John.