Family Tribute:Jim - my husband - was reserved and quiet and known by all as a gentle spirit. That he was, and he was also smart, sexy, earthy, silly, sensitive, empathetic, handsome, giving, deep and possessed of a wonderful dry wit. He sang, danced, told stories and did pretty good imitations. He was endlessly curious and took such pleasure in learning and understanding. He could build anything, make anything grow, cook and shop like a pro. Oh, he could get angry and frustrated like anyone else but he had an amazingly deep capacity for joy. He enjoyed traveling but enjoyed our home even more. He understood contentment and he had the gift of being able to appreciate both the big picture and the small things. He loved the ocean, loved nature, loved his family. Jim knew work was work and life was life. He made me feel secure, beautiful, strong. I had the privilege of loving and being loved by this man and for that I am eternally grateful.
Nikki Stern, widow of Jim Potorti
James E. Potorti: ’Je T’Aime, Jim’
Paris, 1988. Nikki Stern is napping and the new love in her life, James E. Potorti, a sweet soul with penetrating eyes, is painting. For days they have been exploring Paris, and discovering each other in its art galleries, cafes and, inevitably, the Eiffel Tower. Now, as she sleeps, he arranges fresh oranges and grapes in a bowl, and he paints his simple still life with a purpose made clear by the inscription on his canvas, 'Paris à Nikki -- Je t’aime, Jim, 1988.'
'That,' Ms. Stern recalled with a warm laugh, 'is when I knew I had him.'
Cayuga Lake, N.Y., 2001. It is Labor Day weekend, and Mr. Potorti, 52, is kayaking side-by-side with Ms. Stern, his wife of 10 years. They bought kayaks this spring, took lessons together, and now, on a clear, cool day, they are exploring Cayuga Lake, and discovering each other. Near the middle of the lake they drift for a moment, basking in the intimacy of being so alone, and so together. Ms. Stern reaches for her husband’s hand. He leans close to her. They kiss.
'The best day of my life,' Ms. Stern said.
These words come through tears. Mr. Potorti, a vice president at Marsh & McLennan who worked on the 96th floor of 1 World Trade Center, has left behind a wife who loved the way they ignored birthdays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day because they much preferred surprising each other with gifts throughout the year. What does she miss most? 'I definitely miss his physical presence,' she said, again with that warm laugh. 'We were close that way.'