Robert Mammano Frezza

Pictures on my shelf

Your smile that never changes greets me as I rise.

Silently, you watch my passing years.

I see you in your brother's face, the man you might have been.

My heart cries but my eyes stay dry, so trained except for in my dreams.

Finding strange comfort when they see you there

Forever young and full of promise.

Bill Frezza
October 25, 2006


It has been two months since Bob's passing and it's clear that the healing is going to take a long time. I thought I might share with you a letter I wrote to the good people at PayPal the week after Bob's death. You might be pleased to know that PayPal successfully launched its IPO on Friday. Bob would have been very proud.

Bill Frezza
February 17, 2002

To Max Levchin, Nellie Minkova and the wonderful people at PayPal:

It is with infinite sadness and a deep sense of gratitude that I sit here today trying to commit to words the contents of my broken heart: sadness for the loss of the one thing a father values more than his own life and gratitude for the loving years we had with Bobby as well as the outpouring of support my wife and I have received from friends and family through these trying days.

By any measure Bob was an extraordinary young man. Through some subtle personal alchemy he reached into the souls of his entire family - myself, his mother, his grandparents, and his aunts and uncles - and extracted the best from each of us, gently laying aside our shortcomings. To say I was proud of him understates the delight and even the awe I felt as Bob matured into a man who would surely surpass his father. As Bob's talents grew with each new challenge mastered, it became clear that my most important purpose on this earth was to be his coach and guide, sharing the lessons I had learned by trial and error, helping him avoid the pitfalls and blind alleys that have consumed so much of my career, and preparing him for some destiny limited only by his drive and imagination.

They say it takes three generations for an immigrant family to achieve the American dream. My own family followed the path of the engineer, starting with my father for whom Bob was named. A quiet and self-effacing man, my father's ticket out of the ghetto took him from trade school to the machine shop to Army Ordnance on the front lines of the Second World War to six years of night school at Cooper Union, where he proudly emerged an engineer. Set on this same course, I pursued my dream at M.I.T. When Bob announced his choice of Stanford over my alma mater it was with some trepidation that I packed him off for the west coast, fearing he might be seduced away from the fundamental value-creation of engineering into the dismal science of economics or the fast money of finance.

But my fears were short lived. Stanford turned out to be exactly the right place for Bob, and nothing proved this more than his work at PayPal. As he embraced his role at PayPal with increasing fervor, initiated into the ranks of the true engineer by his mentor, Max Levchin, as he stepped up to the challenge of proving himself to his talented, skeptical, and demanding colleagues, and most of all as he became suffused with the overarching sense of mission one gets from a start-up that is changing the world, I knew Bob had achieved that state of grace known to the engineer operating at the peak of his capabilities. Knowing that he experienced this profound joy in his very short life will forever be a comfort to me.

As we are learning through this terrible ordeal, only the understanding, love, and support of countless friends, family, and colleagues have kept us from collapsing into utter despair. I can say without exaggeration that no single thought, no single word, deed or gesture has meant as much to us as the memory book put together by you all at PayPal. This priceless keepsake has shown us our beloved Bob through the eyes of those he touched, people outside the circle of friends and family in which he was raised. The words describe the man we always dreamed of, the gentle spirit animated with a zest for life and an abundance of gifts put to good purpose. What more can any father ask?

The night of Bob's memorial service, when quiet finally descended on our home and we were left sitting at the kitchen table with our immediate family and dearest friends, we took out the memory book and passed it around, each reading a passage aloud. Since that time the book has never left my wife's side. As the days go by and visitors stop by to sit quietly with us, she takes it out to read to them, squeezing from its pages a lifetime of joy and pride to make up for the years that will never be. This book will be our touchstone through which we will remember the life force that was our Bobby.

Thank you for giving us this. Thank you for seeing the things in our son that tell us we succeeded at being the parents we tried so hard to be. And thank you for sharing the joy of knowing Bob, a joy that I hope will linger forever in your memory after these hard days of sadness slowly pass.

With all our hearts,

Bill Frezza
December 29, 2001

Bob's Dad asked me to add the following notes from him:

When my heart begins to heal I would like to write something to thank you, Chris, as well as all of Bob's friends for everything you've done to help us get through these past few days. Until then let me share a quote that has been a comfort during our darkest despair.

Bill Frezza, December 24, 2001

We should remember -- sorrow shared is sorrow diminished

"If a friend of mine gave a feast, and did not invite me to it, I should not mind a bit. But, if a friend of mine had a sorrow and refused to allow me to share it, I should feel it most bitterly. If he shut the doors of his house of mourning against me, I would move back again and again and beg to be admitted, so that I might share in what I was entitled to share. If he thought me unworthy, unfit to weep with him, I should feel it as the most poignant humiliation, as the most terrible mode by which disgrace could be inflicted upon me. He who can look on the loveliness of the world and share its sorrow, and realize something of the wonder of both, is in immediate contact with divine things, and has got as near to God's secret as anyone can get."

-- Oscar Wilde.

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