Tragic loss prompts reflection, offers lessons

Tragic loss prompts reflection, offers lessons

This week my family and my Oak Partners family were devastated by unimaginable tragedy when Joe Starkey, my brother-in-law and business Partner, died suddenly while on a family vacation. Joe was 41 years old.

No person in life is perfect, but Joe may have been something preferable to perfect. He was simply good, honorable, and truly kind. He cared deeply about his clients, his community, his family and most of all he loved his wife Kelsey and their three children with the whole of his person. He was “that Dad,” always the coach, always the guy that went the extra mile for his family, and he was completely and absolutely devoted to his wife, my sister.

Joe was also a strong athlete. A high school basketball star, an ultra marathon runner (his "ultra" was 50 miles; yes people actually do that) and the all-time champion of backyard party games. Whether it was bean bags, ping pong, horseshoes, or any other silly yard game he found on YouTube, the man was frustratingly unbeatable.

Joe was also an exceptional Wealth Manager and Financial Advisor. Experienced, empathetic and a great planner. As a businessperson and teammate, he was focused on doing the right thing, he knew when to listen and when to apologize, he cared deeply about the details. At the table as a Partner, he was trusted implicitly.

One of the things about Joe that will now also help define him as a husband and a father is that not only was he a solid planner for his clients, but he also followed his own advice. He spent the time to do succession planning in his practice and estate planning for his family; he believed in the utility of life insurance and he used it properly; he saved diligently for the future.

Because of Joe’s financial knowledge and discipline, his family will, without financial hardship, stay in the home he and his wife lovingly provided for their children. Kelsey will be able to send their kids to the college they choose. She will, without the stresses of money, be able to heal and heal her family over time. In the ultimate symbol of Joe’s love, his family will be secure because he built and followed a “just in case” plan.

My intention in writing this column is threefold. First, I want parents and families reading this column to be inspired to take action. Few acts in life reflect the love and competency of a well-conceived and properly funded estate plan. Moms, cut this column out of the paper, hang it on the fridge, let it stare at you until the process is complete. Dads, slow down, spend the time, get this checked off your “to do” list. Sure, it may cost a little money, but today in my family no money could have been better spent. And this advice includes myself and my wife, who have been dragging our feet on some important planning decisions. Its time to “get 'er done.”

I personally also just need to write about Joe. My Partner, my friend, my brother. I love the way he loves my sister. I enjoy, but take for granted, seeing him work at his fancy stand-up desk at Oak Partners. Joe uses some bizarre logic to take the edge off stressful situations and make people laugh, I will try to think a bit more like Joe, to look at the world quite frankly a little weird, to make things funny at the right time.

Finally, I am asking for help. My family and my Oak Partners family are devastated by this loss. Joe moved through many circles in Northwest Indiana, and I know this loss will cast a long shadow on the Region, but in this inner circle we are crushed. Our road to healing will be long, and quite frankly not easy. As my Mom has said to me a number of times this week, “thoughts are things,” and right now we need the thoughts and prayers of our community. Thank you for your kindness and love as we start the long road to healing.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Stock investing includes risks, including fluctuating prices and loss of principal. Marc Ruiz is a wealth advisor and partner with Oak Partners and registered representative of LPL Financial. Contact Marc at Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC.