My relationship with Gerard Maglio nearly began with a brawl. Gerard and I were neighbors in the New South dormitory at Georgetown University, just two blocks from this church. Gerard was the tough talking, street wise guy from Jersey whose wit was quick and piercing. I was the oversensitive kid, the classic snowflake, who was just not ready for it. Our new hall mates quickly bonded over this potential fight, even taking odds. I had the size, but I doubt there was anyone who thought Gerard wouldn’t be victorious.
Luckily, it never came to that. And over the next 27 years, a beautiful, lifelong friendship developed. Gerard was there for every critical moment of my life, to toast my successes, to mourn my losses. It is heartbreaking that we are here today, but I want to talk about the remarkable life that Gerard lived, one rooted in the bedrock principles of authenticity and loyalty.
Gerard was a talented athlete who was hobbled by injuries. During our freshman year of college, a lot of time was spent at Yates Field House playing pickup basketball. The most frequent match ups were 2 on 2, and the teams were always the same, Gerard and Doug, against Dennis and Judd. Gerard and Doug were like Jordan’s Bulls to Dennis and Judd’s Ewing Knicks. Dennis and Judd could not beat them. And Gerard- always called “The Cool Guy”- knew how to stick the knife in- putting up the winning shot and calling “Game” before it went through the hoop. Upon being asked for a rematch, he asked them sincerely, “Do you really want to go through that again? What’s the point?”
After graduating from Georgetown, Gerard immediately made his mark in the consulting world, bringing his mastery of all things financial and plainspoken but savvy advice to climb quickly. He went to New York and graduated from NYU’s stellar business school. Then it was back to consulting, specifically focused on international matters. The greatest change I saw in Gerard during that time was his deep, abiding love for his daughter, Sophia. Truly, Sophia was Gerard’s greatest gift to the world, and he cherished that gift.
We face a world that is terribly inauthentic. For many in this particular town, it’s all a game or a show. It can be exhausting and paralyzing to encounter so much phoniness, particularly in such consequential times. That was never Gerard. He was who he was. He never lied to you about it or pretended to be anyone else. As Albert Camus said, “above all, in order to be, never try to seem.” Gerard never tried to seem to be anything other than himself.
For example, Gerard and I would gather together right across the street from here at the Tombs to watch all of the games of the Yankees magical run to the World Series title in 1996. Now the Tombs had a monthly tradition of hosting Georgetown’s all male a capella group to sing some songs. One night this tradition conflicted with a critical game in that playoff run. We were not about to settle for the game with no sound so that these guys could play “For the L0ngest Time.” So we unleashed a “Let’s Go Yankees” chant before the set began. The singing group slunk off, and the TV sound went on. It was rude, it was uncouth, but darn it, we were authentic.
Carl Jung said that the privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. Gerard was not given as many years as he deserved, but he met that privilege. He was unvarnished, and he could be inappropriate. But what so many people have said to me in these past few days is they remember the heart of gold that was so obvious beneath the surface.
Gerard’s career took off faster than many of ours. When we were in our early twenties and counting our pennies, Gerard was always so generous in picking up checks. Also, it’s one thing to want to get together with friends, it’s another thing to facilitate it. Gerard would provide the path, putting friends up at a family member’s place at the Shore so we could all hang out.
One of those times at the Shore, we were all making small dollar prop bets over silly things throughout a day of hanging out. Gerard acquired a debt related to those bets, a debt that we all jokingly agreed he could resolve by drinking the entire bowl of Kentucky Fried Chicken gravy on the table. Immediately, the debt was resolved as Gerard downed the thick brown mix in a single gulp, and his legend was further cemented.
The other quality of Gerard’s that stood out to me was his loyalty. As Ada Velez-Boardley said, “loyalty is the pledge of truth to oneself and others.” When two people are authentic with each other, it creates vulnerability, and only in vulnerability can a bond be formed.
Our friend Doug, who was very helpful in putting this remembrance together, reminded me this week of the time that his computer crashed in college, thus erasing a major term paper that was due the next day. Gerard loaned Doug his computer and provided support to him as he started to freak out about the pending deadline. “You’ve got this,” Gerard told him. And he did.
I remember one particular romantic heartbreak that left me absolutely devastated. I texted Gerard, and he went out to meet me and console for many hours that night. He kept me whole, and allowed me to come through the other side.
Loyalty is so rare in this world. Too often, we make disposable what does not present us with immediate gratification. Life is just too hard to sacrifice for others. When someone is no longer useful, they are no longer meaningful. Gerard never did that. What an example of his loyalty was his love of the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets, as he’d sleep in his favorite old jersey the night before a new season started.
I was lucky enough to visit with Gerard one last time last month and spend time with him and his wonderful parents Ralph and Carol. Gerard could not stop talking about how wonderful Sophia was and what a great time he had with her this past summer. We hugged goodbye, saying, “I love you brother.” I never could have imagined it would be for the last time.
You learn over the years how much loyalty means. The older you get, the more moments of alienation we have. The invincibility of youth slips away. In those moments, the people you can depend upon are everything, the rocks that allow you to hang on when you’re slipping and to rebuild when you’re ready. It breaks my heart that Gerard will no longer be that rock for me. I will miss him every Yankee playoff run. I will miss him every time I need a laugh and send a random text at 3 in the afternoon, knowing he will return it. I will miss sharing the joys of my family with him. I will miss him the next time there’s a vat of gravy that just needs drinking.
What I take from Gerard: Live authentically. Be generous with your friends. Stand by them and celebrate their successes and care for them during their losses
I learned about Gerard’s death last Wednesday. The next day, Bruce Springsteen, Gerard’s favorite artist, released a new song that captures this moment. To close, I’ll paraphrase it ever so slightly:
“We make our vows to those who’ve come before
We turn up the volume, let the spirits be our guide
Meet you brother on the other side…”