Back on December 6, 2015, I bid a ceremonial farewell to my late husband Greg. Now, over the two weeks approaching Greg’s 54th birthday on June 6, 2017, I am taking the opportunity to post transcripts of the tributes that were delivered on the day of his memorial.
Below is a transcript of the tribute delivered by Frank Ramirez. When Greg asked me to marry him shortly after we met in 1991, there were just two people from whom he sought blessings – his mom and this guy. Video part 1 here and part 2 here. ~ Alysoun
As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve enjoyed a colorful and interesting career creating efficiency and extracting complexity premiums in a broad array of situations and markets. As a green attorney fresh out of law school, my branch unwound the fixed commission structure in the US equity markets, which led to the advent of all the discount brokerages that we know. And a few years later, straight out of the GSB at Stanford, I joined a fledgling merchant banking group in San Francisco testing the permissible boundaries of the Glass-Steagall Act, pursuing a broad array of non-traditional commercial banking activities including M&A and leveraged buyouts.
As we grew traction, we found the need to recruit analysts – and in 1985, we interviewed Gregory J. Reiter, a wickedly bright, wide-eyed, slightly skittish and wet behind the ears econ grad fresh out of UC Berkeley. Greg among others had been run through the proverbial vetting gauntlet by three of our senior leads – and when Greg surfaced as our top candidate, I was given the responsibility of closing him. As a peddler by trade and leaving nothing to chance, I took Greg to a little bar that would become our special event watering hole – Trader Vic’s on Cosmo Place in San Francisco.
If, as it is argued, selling is bringing someone with us to a point or a moment of choice, where that person chooses an action that they consider to be in their own best interest, I think it’s fair to say that Greg never had a chance. A few dozen pupu platters later, and a small lagoon of Trader Vic’s mai tais the old way, Greg – now Greg the gregarious, a gumby legged, bobble headed, smiley faced and raggedy Cal Bear – was ready to buy the t-shirts and tattoo his arms.
Gregorio, as I would later come to learn, shared my genetic love of fine food, and an inability to easily metabolize hard liquor. And thus began a 30-year relationship that would find us weaving our way through each other’s lives in ways that we could not at that moment even imagine.
You see, Greg and I shared many common experiences – some of them explicitly spoken, and some tacitly acknowledged – that helped me to understand him at his core, and that explained some of the factors that relentlessly drove him to be the very best he could possibly be.
Greg embodied what Ace Greenberg, the visionary founder of Bear Stearns called a “PhD” – albeit defined as a series of pillars beginning with the small letters “p”, “h”, and “d”. Greg was poor, hungry, and desirous of changing those conditions. He was also principled, hard-working, and dedicated to delighting his customers. Moreover, Greg was pathologically polite (though germophobic), humble, and devoted without equivocation to his family and friends.
For all of you who worked with Greg in some capacity or other, I am sure that these descriptions resonate in harmony with your experiences.
Given the nature of this event, I promised Alysoun not to disclose any embarrassing peccadilloes that could undermine any of those views – especially since I probably would incriminate myself in the process.
However I will share a few stories that elaborate on a few of Greg’s more endearing eccentricities.
As some of you in this room may recall and have actually mentioned, Greg was always hungry. He came from the school of thought that a meal missed was an opportunity forever lost – and in that regard we were probably brothers from a different mother.
The first year of our relationship we ate nearly every lunch together – exploring the finest, cheapest eateries we could find. One joint in particular, Henry Chung’s Hunan on Montgomery, before it was destroyed by the earthquake, filled our hungry bellies with cold peanut sauce noodles, fiery Henry’s Special, or wok-scorched chau fen. It was glorious eating at its best.
And it was over these meals that I came to learn of his love and devotion to his sister Lainey and his mom. Greg, as the man in his family, fretted relentlessly over the health and well-being of these women. And it pained him greatly to be without the resources to make their lives significantly better.
While sorrow and frustration had already checkered this young man’s past, Greg wasn’t bitter or angry. He was instead filled with hope and the belief that hard work would provide a way out.
Greg was driven in many respects to assure that his family would never again be shamed by poverty. And as many of you know, few men have ever shown the devotion that Greg showed to these women – an unbridled devotion to their well-being – that also came to include Alysoun, the lightning bolt true love of his life.
This is the Greg Reiter that is known to most if not all of you in this room. The Gregorio that I came to know is another person that artfully hid behind a number of masks, each more elaborate and sophisticated than the previous, and that will likely strike resonance with those of you in this room who are also high achievers, and who are afflicted by what psychologists call the Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in the face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt or feelings of intellectual fraud. How many times did we all hear Greg exclaim that he just got lucky? Or that his personal success wasn’t a big deal? I think his self-deprecating manner was his way of dealing with his view that he didn’t deserve his success or professional position, and that sooner or later, his lack of talent would be unmasked.
It is for this reason that the biggest smiles I saw on his face in a professional setting were often those that he wore in an actual costume – as if in the suspension of reality there was temporary safety.
To best illustrate this point, I’ll begin with this simple costume that Greg wore to an Elizabethan Christmas theme party at our home in Hillsborough [CA].
Here’s Greg sporting an adult beverage, just outside of this enlargement’s view, that I recall was a Far Niente Chardonnay. In attendance were some of the most talented people in fixed income analytics that I believe had ever been assembled outside of Wall Street….Greg, as you know, after many engagements with top firms, ended up as an MD of Residential MBS Research at Wells Fargo.
Costumes were just part of our culture, and it was embraced with gusto. And as a tribute to Greg, I’m gonna complete the rest of my talk in gear representative of that we often found ourselves in.
You see, every one of the fellows on our team was first generation. Quantitatively bent, and without the pedigree that would otherwise have found a place on the tony side of corporate finance, where class standing plays a strong but unspoken role in one’s selection.
We built a highly specialized boutique that reverse engineered the complex structures being used on the Street, to create liquidity in the conventional mortgage lending market, and we developed specialized tools and novel structures that we applied to other asset classes …. all of the time working below the radar screen of the big houses on the Street.
Because of our specialized work, we didn’t house our efforts in the Alex Brown white shoe, buttoned-down offices in San Francisco, but rather in a Birkenstock playroom on the water’s edge in Burlingame.
To do this work we had to think differently than our compatriots in New York, to use cutting edge software tools and methods that we developed, and to produce our own research.
In doing so, we adopted some unconventional behaviors. As fixed income renegades, quasi-misfits and putative outcasts from the Oxford buttoned-down brigades, the team often sported flip-flops, cargo shorts, Hawaiian shirts, and beanies with propellers on their heads. Greg was particularly fond of beanies with propellers on their heads.
We orchestrated happy dances that took us bounding through our offices to commemorate great trades or landmark placements. And to celebrate, we routinely ate a small village’s worth of spicy burritos.
Our only limiter was that we not dream too small. As Paolo Coelho alludes in The Alchemist: “One’s true regret should not be in failing to achieve one’s big dreams – but rather, that fear might have constrained our dreams. That we dreamed too small and easily achieved the mark. Fear not to dream big.”
We were all big dreamers, remained big dreamers, and continued to reach beyond our grasp. The early years, quite frankly, were some of the happiest periods of my life.
And I pray that somewhere, somehow, Gregorio is again dancing such happy dances and engorging on the juiciest burritos in heaven.
We will miss you, my friend. We will miss your joyful mirth, and your unbridled care for the weak and defenseless. We lament that you left us too soon, and weep in sorrow for the vacuum you left in our hearts.
We are better for having enjoyed your laughter, and stronger because you showed us that a life with love is a life well lived.
Dance free, querido amigo. Free of the masks, Free of earthly responsibilities. And free in the knowledge that you left the world a better place for your having been here.
I miss you, my friend.