Our families, particularly our parents, have been our guiding light for our entire lives. We thank you for loving us, providing for us, teaching us what is most important in life and for your unwavering support.
Forever Loved and Remembered - Juliet Versfeld and Joe Del Valle
Juliet Versfeld, my mother, was someone that affected everyone in a positive way, at least from what I saw when she was alive and heard after she passed. Her redeeming qualities were things that she would never admit to but were appreciated greatly. First and foremost, was her top chef like cooking which as a hungry young boy made my stomach roar with excitement. Making sure there was no leftovers for tomorrow night was something she probably loved watching about me. Although I didn't appreciate the quality at the time, the proof was in the positive reactions of our many guests. Being a terrific hostess to what seemed liked 100's of short and long term guests, Hotel Versfeld seemed effortless to her. She made every out-of-towner feel like they were part of the family. When you can open someone else's fridge without much hesitation, you feel like you live there. Our dog, Caesar, just made sure you weren't taking any of his chicken legs.
Her intelligence, resourcefulness and creativeness made her a very competitive and strong person. Juliet started Trips Away Travel 30 years ago and it is still around today. From running a company every day to cooking our dinner at night to spending time with her children before bed, it seemed like she created time. She had the family running like well-oiled machinery. I think even my dad started out as her employee. With all the responsibilities she had, the most important one was her family and that was evident from the numerous times she dropped everything to face whatever fear arose. One time, she proved her bravery by riding in the car when I was driving with my learner's permit. I thought it was a video game, she hoped it was too.
The last quality I think might give you a good understanding of who my mother was during her brief life was her level of positivity. She was so positive that you didn't know when anything was going wrong. Her poker face was so good you didn't know if she was holding pocket aces or not. She didn't really feel that any problem was too big to solve and didn't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable in any situation so she just took care of it.
Writing this memoir is not a summary of her life but it does give you a small glimpse of who she was and maybe shows some qualities that you can see in me.
Jose Felipe Del Valle (Joe), was a funny, kind, sweet person with a smile and sometimes naughty joke for friends, neighbors, clients and family. He made everyone feel at ease and made everyone feel like they were a friend.
My dad could make a day trip or short journey into an amazing adventure. An ordinary car wash with my sister Laura and I would become the attack of a monster and long giggle fests. He did everything he could to put a smile on our faces – whether it was to teach us how to drive in Hunts Point (Bronx) or take us on a doomed fishing excursion near the Hudson River (we caught a boot).
My dad was 52 when I was born. Even though he was an older parent, he would take my sister and I roller skating, bike riding and basketball playing and always had tremendous patience for us. He was an extraordinary father, my wise mentor and my superhero.
Bevan marvels when I tell him my dad who was a NYC taxi driver for a few years, drove perfectly with two feet and without a hitch. I shared many moments in his taxi. From a very young age, I was his co-pilot in the front seat and witnessed the insanity and raw gritty beauty of NYC in the 70s and 80s. Dad treated me to many a gourmet hotdog and strawberry Yoohoo, sometimes chocolate and at times pineapple soda. I also earned quite a bit of 50 cent (half dollars) tips, enjoyed counting the coins my dad was given and wrapping them up in bank coin wrappers.
My dad was very passionate about taking pictures, something some would argue my sister Laura, my brother Felipe and I got from him. I remember how he would excitedly go into a camera shop to look at lenses and would love to show us how they worked on his Pentax camera. He loved to live life and capture all the moments he possibly could. He also loved reading – he loved all the fictional legal novels by John Grisham and Scott Turow.
When he wasn't driving his taxi, or building a closet at home - he was incredibly talented with his hands and loved to fix things and make dollhouses for us too - he loved to cook. My mom, sister, brother Felipe and Tia Flor where blown away with how fast he could create some delicious meals.
Dad also took meticulous care of how he looked. Being surrounded by 3 women, he always loved the new shirts, ties, pants and colognes we gave him. He always had a back comb in his back pocket and clean handkerchief.
My dad always taught me to be proud of my history, to look forward to my future, to always honor and respect my name. He taught me to be resilient, open-hearted and to be passionate about whatever it is I decided to undertake and give it my absolute all. I would never be were I am today if it wasn't for his hard work and for the sacrifices my mom also made. I thank them both very much.