Robert James Ferrari was born in New York City, and raised in Forrest Hills, New York, alongside his sister Linda, by James and Catherine Ferrari (née Shea). After graduating from Forrest Hills High School, Robert drove to San Francisco to experience the “Summer Of Love” firsthand. He spent the next few years swept up in the zeitgeist of the late 1960’s, culminating with a trip to Woodstock for “Three Days of Peace and Love”.
In the early 1970’s, Robert began his apprenticeship as a sheet metal worker. During this time he helped build the World Trade Center, and met his future wife, Joanne Bratcher. They had a son named Clarence.
Due to the economic downturn in New York City, along with Joanne’s love of traditional American music, the Ferrari’s moved to Nashville, Tennessee. When the Tennessee Valley Authority scrapped its plans to build several nuclear power plants, Robert once again had to travel to find work, travelling as far as Utah to make ends meet.
In the early 1980’s, Robert and Joanne divorced. Joanne and Clarence returned to New York City. Robert followed shortly after, to spend time with his son, and to take advantage of the construction boom that was happening at that time.
Having been a violinist and a boy soprano in his youth, Robert encouraged his son’s interest in music. He was an expert at haggling with the owners of various pawn shops to get the best deal for a 250 year old violin or Clarence’s first electric guitar.
Robert also shared his love of the outdoors with his son, taking him on numerous camping trips, travelling as far as Nova Scotia to experience nature in its purest form.
In the 1990’s, Robert began to look into how his local sheet metal union was handling its pension funds. He discovered that there was rampant corruption, combined with poor investment choices. If left unchecked, these actions would bankrupt the pension fund, leaving thousands of workers without a pension.
Robert used what he had learned from the anti-war movement in the 1960’s to relentlessly call out members of the union’s leadership, while distributing flyers to the rank and file members explaining what was going on. This brought about significant changes to how the pension fund was handled, and led to Robert being elected as a Business Manager for the union. During this time, he was briefly married to Nilsa Castaneira.
In the 2000’s, Robert retired and moved to Barcelona, Spain. A few years latter, he moved once again to Costa Rica.
Health issues caused Robert to return to New York where he spent most of his remaining years in Long Island, in the care of Maureen and Maura Whilhelmsen, who treated him as one of the family.
When the Whilhelmsen’s relocated, Robert traveled with them, spending his final days in New Bern, North Carolina.
Robert is survived by his son Clarence (Kimberlee), his grand daughter Alice Rose, his niece Diane, his grand niece Annabella, his nephew Scott (Maggie), and his grand nephews Danny and Dylan.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to The Joslin Diabetes Center.
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