Today, Bob Tracey runs Tracey Real Estate on Avenue S in Marine Park, one of the top five real estate offices in Brooklyn. His company handles mega-millions in annual sales, and Tracey has a loving family, a fine Marine Park home, a summer house in Breezy Point and two other real estate offices, specializing in getting affordable Brooklyn homes and mortgages for cops and firefighters and other civil servants.
He also owns the Brooklyn Proud apparel label and sits on the local community board and the Marine Park Civic Association.
Tracey leads a very successful, privileged life but also gives back - heavily sponsoring the Hurricanes football team, all the local Little Leagues, the local cadets and countless local charities.
It almost didn't happen.
Back on the night of Feb. 10, 1978, Tracey was a 28-year-old raging alcoholic stumbling into the Sheepshead Bay Road subway station.
"I was 240 pounds, hugging a six-pack of Rheingold," he says. "I grew up in the Sheepshead/Nostrand Projects, where I ran the street hard. My father worked sales for the phone company. Most of the guys I went to Resurrection grammar school with were doing great. I hit bottom."
Tracey drank alone in a tiny furnished room on Avenue P and Nostrand where his father paid for a phone that worked only for incoming calls.
"I walked the streets smoking clippies from the gutter," Tracey says. "I almost died when I was beaten with a crowbar. I drank rotgut wine. I wanted to die more than I wanted to live."
Tracey says that on that winter night at the subway station, he saw the Manhattan train light blinking and planned on jumping the turnstile.
"But for some reason the token booth clerk just waved me in," Tracey says. "It was like passing through the gates to salvation. Because when I got onto the platform God sent me a messenger. He was an old guy. He had a beard. He wore a hat. He sat on a bench. His name was Irving."
Tracey sat in the vacant seat next to Irving. Frightened, the old man rose and hurried down the platform.
The train roared into the station in a gust of icy wind.
Wary, Irving climbed aboard the train.
"I looked menacing, ravaged," Tracey says. "The doors were closing; I looked Irving in the eyes. The fear went out of his face. He held the doors for me. And my life forever changed."
In the three stops to Kings Highway, where Tracey got off, Irving told Tracey that he was in Alcoholics Anonymous and that Tracey should come to a meeting.
"I gave Irving my phone number," Tracey says. "I went home to my room, littered with beer and wine bottles, stinking of urine, and I drank. But Irving started to call me. He called me for nine consecutive Monday nights asking me to come with him to an AA meeting. I used to pretend I was my brother. Then on April 25, 1978, Irving called and said, 'Tracey, I'm coming to get you.'"
Irving came and took Tracey to his first AA meeting, where an alcoholic named Ray was celebrating his 25th anniversary of sobriety, telling his own inspiring story.
"I've been sober since," Tracey says. "I always told Irving that God sent him to me. But Irving was agnostic and he said it was just a twist of fate. We agreed to disagree."
On his hard road back from the darkness of active alcoholism, Tracey took a job at Fillmore Realty.
"I did okay," he says. "But I kept asking my father, who was an usher at Resurrection Church, involved in the Cub Scouts, Marine Park Civic and well-liked in the community, to open a real estate office with me.
"He told me that if I could find a storefront on Avenue S between E. 36th and E. 37th Sts., he'd do it with me. I think it was his way of saying I wasn't ready."
But Tracey soon found a storefront for $300 a month. They built an office. All of his father's goodwill in the community paid off as locals gave Tracey Real Estate their listings.
"When we started to get successful, my father said to me, 'You know how you give back? You don't do it to get anything. You do it because someone did it for you.' He was so right.
"This community has been very good to me. I could go on all day about how grateful I am for the success I have. But nothing is as important or valuable to me as my sobriety because if I didn't have that first I wouldn't have a great family, a nice home, a successful business. So, I will never forget Irving, who died last Aug. 30. If Irving had not held the subway doors for me on Feb. 10, 1978, I wouldn't even be here."
source: New York Daily News
author: Denis Hamill