Fernando M. Alva was a dear friend. I had not seen him for about nine months, but on Wednesday afternoon, May 9, I had a fleeting vision of him in my mind as I worked on a blog post. Call him, I told myself, call him later on today and connect.
I was too late.
Here is how I met Fernando: he wrote me a letter, typed actually, correcting information I had written in a magazine article on real estate that was inaccurate. Imagine that. I called him, asked for an explanation, asked to meet him for lunch. We became fast friends. Over the years I entrusted him with deeply personal thoughts, my home, aspirations and pain. He listened, reflected and never once let me down. I recall how incredibly well-written that initial letter to me was, a first impression that proved to be spot on as Fernando was a deeply intelligent, sensitive man. As I told him often, you have more empathy and insight than half the so-called geniuses I know.
He was born on August 14, 1980 into a loving family in El Paso, Texas. He graduated from the Maxine L. Silva Health Magnet School in 1999 and moved to Dallas to attend the University of Texas at Dallas. Soon after, he enrolled in Champion School of Real Estate and graduated in 2003, obtaining his Texas real estate license. He immediately joined with Keller Williams, first the North Dallas office, then Turtle Creek, and began a life-long career in residential real estate. During his tenure, he worked for Keller Williams, Laura Beasely Real Estate, Allie Beth Allman & Associates (Juli Harrison), Keith Cox (now with David Griffin Realtors), and most recently, Keller Williams agent Carol Blair. Fernando was also active in many Dallas philanthropies, notably DIFFA, where he took on fundraising in full force by creating program pages specifically for realtors, raised funds and volunteered for every aspect. He certainly had a flair for design.
“I was the director of DIFFA Dallas when I met Fernando for the first time,” says publicist Kayla Watts. “He was just getting involved in volunteering for DIFFA and took fundraising on full force. That was just the start of our friendship, over the years we kept in touch via email, text, Facebook, etc..Fernando was the ONLY person who understood what I was posting about when I talked about TED and how I wanted to be part of the program. He was the one person who understood so many things I said that really had a deeper meaning.”
Often, I reflect on what it is that makes some of us aspire to seek affluence, art, creativity, power, limelight or a passion for living cursorily packaged as “the good life”. Why do we want bigger and better, be it in real estate or an aesthetic pursuit? Fernando and I pondered this often.
“Why,” I would ask him, “why are we just not satisfied, and why do we not at some point just stop, just say OK, I’m happy here. I’m content. Why do we keep climbing?”
“Because that drive is what makes you get out of bed in the morning,” he’d tell me.
He was an excellent listener. Fernando loved wearing black, much as he loved his happy solitude as a child. A friend asked him once if he owned any color other than black. With a straight face, he said “yes”. Asked if he ever wore it…”occasionally”.
Fernando re-confirmed his Catholic faith a few years ago, becoming more active both in his church and his beloved A.A. Fernando successfully conquered and understood addiction issues, and was an inspiration to many addicts who he helped become strong. For the last two years, he focused his energies on humility, his mother said, and giving to those in need, whether emotional, or physical. One time I was being a narcissistic brat, feeling sorry for myself, and Fernando told me the best cure was to go out and do something wonderful for someone less fortunate. It was a phrase I’ve taken to heart, repeated, and will never forget.
Fernando was one of the most generous and caring hearts in Dallas. He was pursuing a degree in interior design at El Centro College. Education was life to him. He took his nieces and nephews, who he considered his own, to movies, the theater and museums. As a child, he dragged even his big brother and sister to galleries and museums, always their cultural concierge.
“He wanted the best for his siblings,” says his mother, Gloria. “He wanted to always be a positive role model.”
Perhaps it is that striving drive for being the very best that finally chokes us in, wearies us.
“I felt your passing this afternoon,” wrote Amy Floca on his famous FaceBook wall. “I became so overwhelmed, and couldn’t understand my sudden depression. I now believe it to be my empathy.”
Fernando was connected to those of us he knew in this way.
He is survived by his grandmother, Estefana Villalobos, his very beloved mother, Gloria V. Sandlin, brother Orlando J. Alva and his spouse, Jessica Kuhank, a sister Veronica L. Alva, and four nieces and nephews who he treated as his own children: Alexis and Desiree Lozano, and Jakob and Jonah Alva.
Services are scheduled at The Cathedral Virgin of Guadalupe Shrine, 2215 Ross Ave, Dallas, Texas (75201) Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.
“His last post on Facebook is about wanting it to rain forever,” says Kayla Watts. “It is full of so much more meaning, because the raining now is tears from everyone who is feeling his loss.”