On November 9, 2007, tiling contractor Joe Ferrante suffered a massive heart attack at the This Old House TV show project in Newton, Mass., and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. He was 56.
Joe made magic with stone and ceramic tile on almost every season of This Old House TV for 20 years. He also contributed regularly to This Old House Magazine, giving detailed, thoughtful answers to readers' and editor's questions.
Growing up in the trade—he learned it from his father—Joe relished the old-fashioned job of mixing "mud" with a hoe and packing it into a firm mortar bed. "It's the best surface for setting tile, no question," he said. He also had an artist's eye for how tile should look, carefully planning his layouts to make sure each piece and every joint landed in just the right spot. Shortcuts were anathema to him; if the specs called for two coats of waterproofing membrane, he'd apply three, just to be safe. "I'm a real good guy for overkill," he once said, "because I hate going back to fix mistakes." So strong was his pride of workmanship, he simply refused jobs if he felt any pressure to do less than his best.
That was never a concern when working for Tom Silva, who first hired Joe 1983. They were a virtually inseparable jobsite pair ever since. "He had a great attitude," says Tom. "If something had to be changed, it was always, 'No problem.'" Joe is survived by his wife, Ellen, four children, and one grandchild. All of us who knew him will miss his ready smile, his friendly backslaps, his endless trove of stories. It was our great privilege to have known him.