When a man passes away at the age of 92, you don’t have to write about the cause of his death. You celebrate and commemorate the causes of his life.
The thousands of hits online at SFGN.com and the hundreds of Facebook posts featuring Pompano Bill and his pictures are testimony to a glorious life, lovingly lived.
The shoeboxes in John William Calcaterra’s
home is filled with 30 years of photographs and film of your friends and neighbors in our gay community, maybe even of you.
Bill snapped and shot day after day, and night after night, religiously- even when you were not looking. It was a passion that was not to be denied. Now, after these three decades in South Florida, these photos represent a journey well appointed.
The pictures are a collage and collection of who we were and where we have been, from the late-night gatherings at the Copa to the Miss Florida contests at the Fontainebleau.
From the original office of Scoop Magazine at Club Caribbean on North Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale, to AIDS memorials at the Pride Center at Equality Park, Pompano Bill’s pictures framed our lives in action, on the move, at work and at play.
Abraham Lincoln once said that “I admire a man who is proud of his community. I admire even more a man whose community is proud of him.” William Calcaterra was such a person. His mission here in South Florida was to illuminate our lives in photography. Did he ever!
His work and pictures filled the pages of Scoop, Hotspots, the Express, SFGN, and his living room. While capturing our celebrities and celebrations he generated such an infectious enthusiasm, he became one himself.
There are none of us who did not consider him a special friend, because it was Pompano Bill who made us feel so special. We became grand marshals of his parade.
Attend an event on a Saturday night and your email box would fill up by Monday with pictures he took of you, not just the events he was supposed to cover. You see, Pompano Bill left time for us; each other. He built time within his own life to make time for ours.
Go to Facebook today and along with hundreds of comments are thousands of photos of you, with him.
Wake up on a Sunday morning in 2014, check your e mail, and there might be another photo he took of you, twenty years before at a charity pony race in Pompano Park.
So, it came to pass that everyone wanted a picture not just by Pompano Bill, but with Pompano Bill. He himself became so very special, and thus, his loss, even at age 92, leaves us saddened.
Pompano Bill selflessly recorded who we were; who we are. He captured where we were, and when we were there. More than just a photographer, he was truly Broward County’s own gay historian. The Stonewall Library can and should host an exhibit showcasing the photos stored in the closets of his home.
SFGN therefore today celebrates his passing then, with Pompano’s own Playboy centerfold: a collection of your photos with him. He would love it, provided you are not holding a drink or cigarette in the photo. That is verboten!
Pompano Bill had boundless energy, bringing sunshine not only to his life, but to ours. We saw him always with a camera and a smile, a grin and a nod, at one event after another, after another.
As he aged with us, from his 80’s to his 90’s, “How does he do it? How does he do it?” Bill’s time on Earth was generous, and he relished the ride. It was a path that saw a young man go to war in the Philippines in 1942, but find rest and retirement in Pompano, Florida, by 1992.
Along the way, from Norway, Michigan to White Plains, New York City; from Detroit to San Francisco, he found friends and family, and cherished partners in many routes and at many destinations. He found, and lost, like many of us, love.
Forty-four years ago, in White Plains, New York, John Frasene was a young man living at home with his parents. He needed a place to partner with his partner. It was Pompano Bill who gave him and Michael Faye his living room couch.
“We would wake up to a breakfast of Espresso and Sambuca, courtesy of Pompano,” Frasene said. “Of course, breakfast was at noon.” John, now a South Florida resident, was with Bill when he passed away on Wednesday.
“We had a family relationship,” Frasene commented, “I mean, he used to call us his kids. He was essentially our mother.” Indeed, Pompano Bill was a mother to many; a friend to all.
Remember our friend then, if you will, with a song in your hearts and a smile on your lips. That’s who he was. That is what he would want. He did it his way.
His friend Toni Barone, also with Pompano in his final hours, would tell you today, what Pompano Bill would say to all of us all the time: “Shake it easy, shake it easy...”
So too will our friend, now, in that great green room in the sky.