Wednesday, July 18, 2007, 8:12 PM // 7 comments

My Uncle Jimmy Ferrante

My Uncle Jimmy died this week. After a battle with cancer he passed at the age of 83 surrounded by his family. Uncle Jimmy (aka James W. Ferrante) was my great-grandmother's oldest son and my grandmother's brother.

Uncle Jimmy was something of a celebrity in our family. He lived in Guam and would visit the East Coast once or twice every ten years or so. Every time he showed up it was an event. The whole family would converge to my great-grandmother's house to see Uncle Jimmy and hear about what exciting things was going on in his life. From what I can gather, Jimmy was a jack of all trades and master of none. Ask a any member of the family about what Uncle Jimmy did for a living and you'd hear a different answer. He was baker, an entrepreneur, a small-business owner, an importer-exporter, a boxing commissioner, and a butter sculptor.

As a kid I didn't care what he did. All I knew was he wore fancy clothes, drove expensive cars, and gave us presents. As an adult I learned that when he did come to visit he'd leave my grandmother with $300 phone bills and the presents he gave us were nothing more that gifts he received from liquor distributors. I also learned that some even questioned the validity of his stories. Frankly, I don't care. Whatever the truth may be, no one will ever deny the fact that when Uncle Jimmy showed up it brightened up our every day lives. He brought excitement and a sense of real accomplishment and pride to our Italian family. But even more so, when Jimmy came to town he brought the family together and we ate and laughed and ate some more.

Rest in peace Uncle Jimmy and thank you for the Member's Only jacket.

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Remembering Jimmy Ferrante
KUAM takes a look back at the accomplishments and life of the former Guam boxing commissioner.

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Guam boxing's Ferrante dies
By Nicholas Quinata
For Pacific Daily News , visit link


Guam has lost one of its most influential and well-respected members of the athletic community with Monday's passing of the 84-year-old chairman of the Guam Boxing Commission, Jimmy Ferrante. Be it resurrecting pugilism or fostering a culture of excellence for all athletic events, his mark will be felt for years after his death.

A product of the ethnically diverse steel mill community in Youngstown, Ohio, Ferrante was headed for a childhood full of trouble. Fortunately, at the age of 9, a police officer known to the boy as Officer Traffican introduced him to the world of boxing. The young Ferrante formed a passion for the noble art, which he spread for 60-plus years on the island.

"He liked boxing because it is a man's sport, because it's a way of survival. You know, guys like Rocky Marciano and Joe Lewis. The sport taught individuals to survive and overcome challenges," said friend and owner of Saralu's Boxing Team of Champions, Jose Saralu.

Arriving on Guam in 1944 as part of a U.S. military construction battalion, he proudly served during World War II. Before fighting in Iwo Jima, the then-21-year-old Ferrante fell in love with future wife Kitty Tenorio (who he would go on to marry in 1946). Ferrante was a heavyweight champion while in the military. Going under the nickname "Blackie," his wife still referred to him by the name even in his twilight years.

Guam became his new adopted home and he wasted no time bringing professional athletes to the island. Friends of Ferrante heard his countless stories of how he produced athletes such as Joe Lewis and Joe DiMaggio on Guam. "He was always bringing up those stories," said Saralu.

He quickly fell in love with the island and successfully fought to bring boxing up to par with the rest of the United States. As boxing commissioner in his later years, Ferrante fought a final uphill battle to bring boxing back to the prominence it formerly possessed on the Guam. "He was hell bent on getting boxing back on Guam," said Kontenda's Gym owner Brant McCreadie.

Events such as the First Amateur Boxing Classic 2004 were created by Ferrante to develop a ranking system for local fighters and eventually have them participate in the Olympics. He had a hand in jumpstarting boxing gyms in and around the island and was a leader in showing the MMA promoters how to put on an event and prepare the sport for future growth.

"He had a lot of Guam pride and he didn't want to set our standards lower than anywhere else," said Roman Dela Cruz, a representative for Fury MMA. One such example was his adoption of the strict event standards of the Nevada Boxing Commission. "He really saw our potential to grow as a big-timer and made it so we're ready if we get into that field," added Dela Cruz.

The final boxing event Ferrante had his hand in planning will take place August 18. "I'm sorry that Ferrante won't get to be at the event," said Saralu.

Be it in the future, the renewed interest of boxing on Guam or the hand he had in shaping the MMA events that are so prevalent today, Ferrante's actions will continue to be felt and appreciated by the athletes and spectators of the island.

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Stephen said...

I complete echo my brother's sentiments. Uncle Jimmy always reminded me of Dean Martin, especially with that head of hair! I remember he had the toy Merlin with him one visit, prob. around 1980, and he had it before anyone else did bec. he was connected to the world of import/export and Japan. Boy, that was exciting! Also, he'd take a paring knife and change an apple into a swan. He seemed to do whatever he wanted to do, whenever he wanted.

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Mom said...

Well, sons, I'm so glad you have some good memories of ol' Uncle Jim. Yes, I too, was enamored of him as a child. I believed all his fanciful stories -- like the one where it was the middle of a typhone, his wife was in an ambulance on the way to a hospital, the truck was racing out of control, Jim was following in his car, the door of the truck was swinging open, Jim overtook the truck and managed to get to the back to secure the door! As I said I believed all of that, when I was a child. Unfortunately, machurity change me. I saw him for what he was, a man who was a legend in his own mind.
However, he did good for Guam and that is a leagacy no one can take away from him.
I have to admit, I'll miss the stories. No one could tell them like he did.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Rome said...

Hafa Adai,

For quite a while, Mr.Ferrante wasnt necessarily one of my favorite people. I am a MixedMartial Arts event promoter. "uncle Jimmy" didnt really care for our sport, but becasue he was the Guam Boxing Commisioner, we had to run everything through him before our events. Hed be a real prick about details and he was always questioning our intentions. No matter what we did, we could never satisfy the grumpy old man. But honestly, I know why hegrilled us so hard. He wanted us to do our jobs right and he wanted to make sure that our fighters werent taken advantage of. He held us to so much duty becasue he wanted to make sure that we held high standards. For a guy who wasnt from here. He seemed pretty patriotic. He worked hard for the youth. And he wouldnt sacrifice his integrity or position on things for anyman. Famous or not.
Really, as difficult as he made things for me and my partners, Ive learned to respect this. In thr course of time that Ive known him (10years) Ive heard from other people alot of good things he did for this island. And I hope youre all proud of that.

I just wanted to give my peace and condolences .

As for his typhoon story...some crazy things happen here on this tiny dot in the Pacific.

GoodVibrations.

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Ken Stewart said...

Hi Paul!
I attended your uncle's funeral services yesterday...I had read your posting that very morning and had seen the video from the local news(KUAM). I mentioned to his relatives(daughter and her children)that I'd seen the video and had read your posting...(they hadn't seen the posting) but said it "probably was Paul".


I made a copy of my newsletter article on Jimmy....below is the complete newsletter, with the reference to Jimmy in the first few pages. He was a phenomenal man!

Your work seems fascinating...

Cheers,

Ken Stewart
the Guam Food Guy

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Jimmy Ferrante - "Salesman Extraordinaire" Passed Away on July 16

The island of Guam has lost one of its living legends, James "Jimmy" Ferrante, whom I knew more as a "salesman extraordinaire" since he had been involved in a number of businesses and ventures and sold countless items, from confectionery food products to wines and spirits. He was also committed to seeing that his life-long passion, the sport of boxing, became a professional reality for Guam. He served as the Chairman for the Guam Boxing Commission. I knew Jimmy during the years that he ran Triple 888 Distributing Company. I would see him often at restaurants and bars, and we'd always greet with jokes or funny comments about my Food Guy diet or takes on Italian food. He'd brag about his stamina and about his thick mane of black hair that was slowly picking up shades of gray. He was very opinionated and always said what was on his mind. He loved to share stories of his past adventures. I can't think of a business he hadn't been involved with to some extent. I believe he had a few restaurants, too. After all, this guy had been on Guam since 1944, when he had come here as part of the Marines MCB. He really loved Guam and was completely devoted to his wife, Kitty Tenorio, whom he'd married in 1946, and who predeceased him be a few years, breaking his heart.

I recall that he had become ill in the months since I'd last seen him this past February, and his name would often come up when some of his acquaintances would ask about him, since he wasn't out delivering cases of wine or gin, something he had been known to do well into his 80s - he was 83 years when he passed!. He attributed his strength and longevity to his mom and to consuming olive oil. It was truly eerie this past Monday when about 3pm I was on the phone with Stanley Miller of Stanlee's and asked about Jimmy, since another acquaintance, Joe Vitale of Vitale's Italian Restaurant, had also asked about him the previous Friday. Stanley and I agreed it would be good if we could arrange to get together with Jimmy and spend some quality time with him. It was only hours later that we both heard that he had passed that very morning! We'll raise a glass in a toast to you, Jimmy!

Last respects for James William Ferrante may be paid beginning at 9am on Wednesday July 25 at St. Anthony Church, Tamuning.

11:29 PM  
Anonymous TaiwanMuayThai said...

I met Mr Ferrante at an MMA event on Guam in December 2005 where I was cornering for one of the fighters. He watched over the running of the event and made a point of making sure all the fighters got paid and safety was a top priority.

To a SOLID gentleman, Rest in Peace

11:31 PM  
Anonymous janis said...

Thank you for all your comments. They made me smile!

As his daughter, I lived in both his imaginary life and in the reality. And at the end, all that mattered was the outpour of love and respect many had for him. Strangers came up to us during his funeral with their stories of how he touched their lives in one way or another. That memory will stay with me forever. Thank you for that!

12:34 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

My Dad was stationed on Guam in the mid-60's. We went to a friend's (James Ferrante) house for a BBQ and swimming. I will never forget that visit. I was in the 5th Grade. I am going to Guam next spring and was reminiscing. My Dad is 88 in the Boston area. I will pass the news to him if he wasn't aware. I remember Jimmy as the Distributor of Spirits for Guam. A man with a very likeable personality and good sense of humor.

3:03 PM  

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