What I Learned from Joe – A Tribute to my Brother.


I woke up at 3:30 this morning. Not sure why. Couldn’t get back to sleep and felt like something wasn’t quite right. So I tossed and turned a bit, finally got up around 5:30, had some coffee and breakfast. Taught an exercise class, took a shower, got dressed and went to work. Still, I had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right..

Then, it dawned on me. Right as the receptionist at our office got on the PA and announced that it was donut day and mentioned the birthdays we were celebrating this week (yes, we have donut day every Wednesday. Jealous?). When she got to my brother Tom’s birthday – there is was. Ding, ding, ding..  So you’re thinking, you forgot your brother’s birthday? That’s what had you all discombobulated? Nope. Well, not exactly. Because, while it was one of my brothers birthdays (and I have five brothers) – today is also the 25th anniversary of my oldest brother Joe’s final flight. Which is an eloquent way of saying he died in a plane crash on this date 25 years ago.

Tom, Joe and my dad, Rudy Frasca wave to the crowd after performing in an air show.

Joe was an amazing guy. He lived an extraordinary life for 34 short years. He was one of those guys everyone loved. Men, women, adults, kids.. Because he was funny as heck! Smart, talented (and good looking – as my friends often pointed out) and he knew how to make every day count – and then some. Some of the things he did during his time on this planet:

  • He was a member of the U.S. Aerobatic flying team. He was a phenomenal pilot. His performances were out of this world.
  • He was a bush pilot in Alaska and flew hunters and fishermen into remote areas.
  • He traveled the world installing flight simulators for our company. And he had a blast in every city, town, village, and country he visited.
  • He taught himself to golf because he said he needed a challenge (?)
  • He could make anyone laugh – with the driest sense of humor.
  • He could drink Tequila like a champ (maybe that’s not a positive trait but I’m going with it)
  • He had a way about him that made everyone he met, want to hang out with him.
  • And be his friend.
  • He was an amazing brother. He was an amazing friend.
  • He lived everyday to the fullest and he gave everything his all.

For several months after Joe died, I couldn’t believe he was gone. He’d lived in Alaska for several years and I was living in Colorado around the same time. So we’d go for long stretches of time before we saw each other at Thanksgiving or Christmas.. so it took a long time for my mind to finally accept that I wouldn’t be seeing him in this life again. But he stayed with me in memories and to this day (25 years later!) I am still inspired by the way he lived his life. Because he packed more into his 34 years than most people experience in a normal lifespan. Way more. He was fearless, focused and funny. He strove for excellence in everything he did. He made his life an adventure and I believe he is still flying high.

Here’s to you Joe! I’m awed to have had you as a big brother. You are the voice in my head that inspires me to be fearless, to live life to the fullest, to strive for excellence and focus on the positive. And you were always there for the rest of us to look up to. Never forgotten.

The P-40 at sunset.  Joe flew this plane in several air shows.

13 thoughts on “What I Learned from Joe – A Tribute to my Brother.

  1. I had the pleasure of working with him whenever he decided that the business in Alaska was too slow and he came back to Illinois. Still remember him. He created an aerobatic maneuver that had the aero-theorists scratching their heads. His funeral procession from the church to Urbana was way over 200 cars and shut down traffic for an hour. Best of all I remember when Rudy would try to choreograph an air show and Joe would just ignore him and do what he did on his own terms.


  2. I lived in the mobile home where Joe crashed in Johnson, Arkansas. Though it may surprise you, his death taught me several things, many of which linger more vividly as I age. I cannot see a fall day or peer into the sky when I hear a plane overhead without thinking about the day and the accident – and Joe’s life ending abruptly.


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