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."
Copyright (c) 2001 by The New York Times Co. Reprinted by permission.
Remembering you today and always, Jim. Rest in peace!
Shannon Bowman, Colleague
Sep 11 2011 10:33PM
Jim and I had a "thing" when we worked at Marsh together....we both thought it was strange that people would say "Hi, how are you?" when they would never listen to the answer. So he and I would always say to each other when we met :" Hi, it's nice to see you." I can still see the funny smile on Jim's face whenever someone says "Hi, how are you" but doesn't wait for the answer.
Nikki, I've been wanting to tell you that one night in Toronto with a team of folks from Marsh, Jim did just about the craziest thing that I've ever seen anyone do. The next morning at the meeting, I was the facilitator, and to kick off the meeting I asked: "Should anyone here have been arrested for what they did last night"? To the astonishment of many in the room who knew him, Jim very proudly raised his hand and waved it about. Then I asked: "Did anybody do something last night that, if they had died doing it, would have made the front page of newspapers around the world?" Again, Jim waved his hand proudly and flamboyantly. Jaws were dropping around the room. It sure set the tone for that meeting!
He was a very nice person. I liked him alot.
Phil Vincent, Colleague
Dec 7 2010 9:59PM
I worked with Jim in the Surety Department in NY. I guess he was known as our Technology Coordinator but that title did not matter to any of us because he was more than that. He was always so helpful and always made himself available. He made my job a lot easier and I greatly appreciated working with him. I think about the many lives that were lost on September 11th and I will always remember Jim and how great it was to work with him. God bless him and his widow, Nikki.
Robyn Walsh, Colleague
Sep 12 2009 11:32PM
Jim was my friend and room-mate during my sophomore year at Oswego State (1972). I will always remember Jim for many of the same reasons you described on your tribute to Jim. We had a great times during that year goofing around and helping each other get through some of our courses. I stayed friends with Jim throughout my college years but unfortunately lost touch when we graduated. I have thought about writing you after the great tragedy but for one reason or another failed to do that. Each year on this day my thoughts of Jim and his family are on my mind and I think about how painful this day must be for you. I have worked for the USGS for the last 30 years and presently live in California. Please e-mail me and update on some of Jim's life after the Oswego days. My love and thoughts are with you and the family. Hank
Hank Chezar, Friend
Sep 11 2008 4:03PM
Sept. 11 is my birthday. In the past, I used to focus on my petty fear of aging. After Jim's death, this day is now a reminder to be grateful for the gift of life and to focus on bringing love wherever we can. Nikki's devotion to Jim, and the magical connection they had is an inspiration, despite the pain of his tragic death. Jim's life was packed with joy and creativity, and he taught people like myself, who didn't ever get a chance to meet him, how to celebrate and cherish the present.
Maura SWANSON, Friend
Sep 12 2007 3:22AM