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The world lost an incredible man to cancer this Monday morning.  My uncle Joe was one of the most interesting people that I have ever met, and not only was he a great uncle, but also a person that I truly admired.  Sometimes I dream about using my major (History of Art and Architecture) to follow in his footsteps as a real-estate developer.  It was my hope that someday he would teach me everything he knew about business so that I might carry on with his vision.

We found out that Joe had Leukemia the day that we buried my little sister, Marina, a coincidence that was both tragic and heartbreaking.  Marina was taken from the world suddenly in a car accident, but Joe battled for 14 agonizing months.  Although cancer took much from him, what he did not and never will lose is the love and respect of his family and friends, and specifically, that of his only niece (me).

A photo taken on Joe's birthday of him holding me and my sister Marina, with my brother Harry

In the past few weeks, the family realized that the end was near for Joe.  He was in the period of recovery after a stem-cell transplant from my mom when he found out that the cancer was back and there was not much the doctors could do anymore.    During this time, I spoke on the phone with my mom who told me that Joe was the first person to the hospital after I was born and he had loved me as his own daughter since.  I was happy to have the chance to spend a night in the hospital with him this past weekend, a chance to show him how much I loved him and wanted to be there for him, as he had been for me my entire life.

The past few weeks I have thought about memories of my uncle quite often.  Joe came in to my (& my brother’s) class when I was in first grade to talk to the class about his profession as an Indie race car driver.  Even after he retired from racing, Joe always made us proud of him – whether it was driving us around in his cool new car, or letting us talk on the phone to his friends, or slipping us a 20$ bill so we could take our grandmother to lunch.  He sometimes invited me over to spend weekends at his house to watch movies and eat ice cream.  One Thanksgiving he gave me a hundred dollar bill for hand washing all of the dishes after dinner.

Joe talking to my first grade class about being a race car driver

As I grew older, Joe became a greater part of my life.  He called to tell me to be strong after my parents had just been divorced, for my 15th birthday hired a limo for me and five of my friends to go to dinner with him, after I graduated he gave me my first job at his office, and when I was going to college, he helped me looked for my first place and gave me a “scholarship” to pay for my first apartment.  He and my aunt Deborah frequently took me to lunch or dinner at nice places in the city – places I never could have afforded on a college student budget.  When I got my grades after every semester, I was most excited to send them to my uncle Joe.

Joe had a very unique personality.  He was confident, funny, and often demanding and impatient.  He was the most generous person that I have ever met, and sometimes, perhaps too much so.  He loved to make jokes (even though they were sometimes a little inappropraite), to argue his beliefs and never be proved wrong, to have good food, and to drive faster than everyone else. He frequently told me to “get on the winning team,” (his) when I disagreed with him, but told me that I reminded him of himself.   He was said to have the IQ of a genius and was successful in business, although he admitted to me once that failure in past businesses had taught him this success.  He was the type of person who never made excuses or gave up and fought his cancer all the way until the end.

Losing Joe has been beyond devastating for me.  I feel lost and confused about how I will proceed without his advice and example.  It is a loss that will not be overcome easily, however I know it is not a loss that I will experience alone.  Joe influenced the lives of many people, and as the leader of our family, it will be difficult to move on without him.  I know, however,  that his life will be celebrated and remembered for a very long time.

Fox Valley Developer Vantreese ‘lived a full life’

Beacon News: Developer Joe Vantreese Dies

Visitation will be held 3:00 P.M. until 8:00 P.M. Thursday, March 10, 2011 at Moss Family Funeral Home 209 South Batavia Ave. Batavia, IL. Funeral services will be 10:30 A.M. Friday, March 11, 2011 at Moss Family Funeral Home. Interment will be in Glen Oak Cemetery in West Chicago, IL.