William J. Erwin

World Trade Center

William Erwin, 30, laughter followed him



Now that William Erwin is gone, his wife and friends are collecting what they call "Billyisms" -- the hilarious things the talented money-market broker used to do.

The prank calls. The dead-on impressions of fellow brokers at Cantor Fitzgerald. His uproarious interpretation of a "Riverdance" jig. The pieces of trivia that inspired his self-imposed nickname, "a funnel of useless knowledge." His refusal to wear socks. They all had a way of endearing Mr. Erwin to anyone who came to know him.

Mr. Erwin's comic side also enhanced his ability to sell derivatives -- financial instruments tied to rapid changes in interest rates -- under intense pressure. And it underscored his role as a husband and, most recently, father.

"He was the glue of the desk," said former Cantor Fitzgerald co-worker Jay Sniatkowski. "He was a clown, he was an excellent listener, he was so loving," said Mr. Erwin's wife, Eileen. "He swept me off my feet."

Mr. Erwin, 30, was among hundreds of Cantor Fitzgerald employees lost in the Sept. 11 terror attack on the World Trade Center.

Minutes before a hijacked plane hit One World Trade Center, Eileen Erwin called her husband to thank him for staying up late caring for their 3-month-old son, Brendan, the night before. Things weren't busy yet, so they chatted for a while about the Cape Cod vacation they'd just returned from, and Brendan, who days earlier had reduced Mr. Erwin to sobs by simply falling asleep on his chest. Then they hung up.

Soon afterward, Eileen Erwin watched the horror unfold on television.

"When it happened, I felt like, How can God let this happen? We were just getting it, we were finally so happy," she said.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Mr. Erwin earned an economics degree from the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh, where he played rugby. From there he went to work as a broker at Exco Noonan in Jersey City before joining Cantor Fitzgerald four years ago.

On the frantic derivatives desk, Mr. Erwin was a calm, level-headed presence.

"He could sit back and assess the situation and make rational decisions at a time when people were panicking," Sniatkowski said.

And in down times, he entertained with practical jokes.

That comic bent also made Mr. Erwin a popular face around his adopted hometown of Verona, where he and his wife bought a house two years ago. Eileen Erwin is now trying to get friends to write down his quirky one liners and corny homespun sayings.

"Everything we do, we're hearing his voice," she said.

Profile by Jonathan Schuppe published in THE STAR-LEDGER.




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