Born in Altus, Oklahoma on October 24th, 1946

Departed on November 5th, 2020 and resided in Denver, Colorado

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On Thursday, November 5, 2020, thoughtful, inquisitive, loving, and extremely funny Joe Preston Ercolani passed away.

Joe Preston, along with twin brother Ronald Louis, were born October 24, 1946 to Louis and Kathryn Ercolani in Altus, Oklahoma. They moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where Joe went to school and graduated from McGuinness Catholic High School. He served as student council president and Ron served as senior class president. Joe and Ron were just as you’d imagine two twin brothers to be, with a dry, but goofy, sense of humor. It was not unusual for them to switch places, or submit a photo of the other and pass it off as themselves. They remained close, always laughing, joking, and pranking, until Ron’s death in 2018.

Joe graduated from Oklahoma City University in 1968. Joe then traveled to South America for a short time, and while short, his time in South America and working on the Amazon river had a huge impact on his life.

He eventually moved to Mountain View, California in 1975. In May of 1978, Joe met Anne Julie Connelly, closed on a house in Palo Alto, California and bought a car all in the same week. He married Anne in 1981, and kept the car until the state paid him to stop driving it because of emissions standards in 2004.

Joe had two children, Lynn Tavia and Jeffrey Thomas, as well as a step-daughter Jennifer Anne, all of whom he adored. He enjoyed adventures with his family all over the world, whether they were road trips to Colorado, a beach trip to Maui, or tooling around Italy – he enjoyed travelling and exploring new places.

Like many young children, Joe wanted to be an astronaut. But unlike most young children, Joe’s interest in space, astrophysics, and NASA held strong over his lifetime. He was always ready with interesting facts about the latest NASA research, or Mars exploration, or the history of space exploration. After retiring, Joe was able to share this knowledge with thousands of people over nearly a decade as an employee at the NASA Ames Research Center’s Exploration Encounter.

While not defined by where he lived, Joe loved the Bay Area and the Stanford campus. On any given weekend, you could find him running or walking the Stanford Hills, aka “The Dish”, at least twice, often more. He would run through the campus, starting at the Stanford track or stadium, weaving past the bookstore, along to Lake Lagunita, then into the hills. Sometimes he ran alone, sometimes with a friend, and sometimes with one of his children riding their bike. He adopted the San Francisco sports teams as his own — spending Sundays watching the 49ers (particularly enjoying the Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice years), frequenting both Candlestick and PacBell Parks to watch the Giants, and cheering on the Golden State Warriors in recent years.

Joe was an avid runner, keeping milage journals for 34 years and proudly reminding his family that he had run the circumference of the earth, at least once. He would run, walk, or hike with friends and family whenever he had the chance.

Joe’s easy smile could light up a room. He was generous with his love and his time. He will be remembered by friends and family for his humor, his thoughtfulness and eloquence, and his inquisitive nature. He is survived by his wife, Anne; his kids, Jennifer, Lynn (Andrew), and Jeffrey; his sisters, Karen and Maria Jean; and his grandkids, Anna, Charlie, Mackenzie, and Donovan.

Guestbook Entries

Bobbi Barrow

Sincere thoughts and sympathy to all your family upon the loss of Joe. I am so glad I had the opportunity to know him. The photos and life history was wonderful to see and read. May your many happy memories sustain you at this time. 

November 14th, 2020 at 8:54am
David Meuel

This obituary and the accompanying photos are a wonderful tribute to a wonderful human being. I met Joe in 1977 in, of all places, an acting class. We became friends almost immediately, and over the years I always appreciated his often wicked sense of humor, willingness to talk about any subject, keen insights, integrity, loyalty, seemingly boundless curiosity, great love for both family and friends, and many other fine qualities. I am honored to have been his friend.

My warmest wishes to Anne and all the members of the Ercolani family during this difficult time. Joe has left us all with many fun, fabulous memories.  

November 14th, 2020 at 10:24am
Jim McAuliff

Knew his Sister Karen 🍀🍀🙏🏻🙏🏻 and knew she had Brothers and if they were like their Sister. Then they are wonderful People. My prayers to Family. 

November 14th, 2020 at 1:01pm
Janie DeGiusti

What a beautiful legacy Joe Ercolani left…his family, friends, and a passion for life! Many prayers to his wife, children and my sweet friend, his sister…Karen.
Janie DeGiusti
MHS classmate

November 14th, 2020 at 1:19pm
Jerry Ratway

I was part of Preston’s younger years growing up on the west side of OKC. After high school we went our separate ways until news of his death.
Sounds like he touched a lot of people and I’m sure that was his wish.

November 14th, 2020 at 3:07pm
richard linhardt

joe said “hey richard where is it happening? the center of the world? ll hours later we were in Houston at Nasa command center as Neil..Armstrrong and the boys were returning to the earth after walking on the moon……suffice to say we did an unauthorized tour of the facilities….and felt as if we were as central to the mission as say Chris Kraft ….the head of mission control……we drove Joe’s new Opel GT which afforded us a parking place next to the astronauts corvettes…..WE WERE COOL…..but Joe was the coolest when he returned from his quest in the amazon and found me teaching tennis at the country club …..he came into the club house looking……and acting like the wild Man of Borneo…..but he was just being himself the wild….funny….witty….Joe Ercolani……He was much loved….and loved muchly,,,,

November 14th, 2020 at 9:50pm
Alan Seay

I first met Joe at OCU when we were both in college.  I remember that at some point he mentioned that he planned to be a writer.  When I visited him in his apartment, he would be sitting in a large chair with his vocabulary-builder flash cards studying to expand his vocabulary.  He was the only person I knew at that time who took expanding his vocabulary seriously using that technique.  Joe was always friendly, kind, and nice to me, and later in life when I saw him at his nephew’s wedding in Telluride, he was just the same,  interested in what I was doing and happy to share what he was up to.   Joe was dedicated to his family and loved by his family and friends.  We will all miss his warm smile and kindness.  

November 15th, 2020 at 4:28pm
John Hochgraefe

We had a great lives and a lot of fun growing up together. After high school very seldom saw Joe or Preston. Believe the last time I saw the family was it Mrs. Ercoloni’s funeral.. Very sorry for the family and may he RIP.

November 17th, 2020 at 6:38am
Sally and Richard Keyes

The Keyes family sends their love to the entire Ercolani Family in this difficult time with the passing of Joe. We didn’t know Joe well but one memory really stands out. There was a huge mathematics controversy in Palo Alto in the early 1990s. At a parent meeting regarding the math curriculum and whether or not students could get into college without taking Algebra in the 8th grade, Joe stood up and stated that one didn’t need to have Algebra in the 8th grade to be able to major in mathematics in college and that he was a living example of that. He encouraged the parents and the teachers to support students in their learning of mathematics regardless of the math class they were in. He won our undying gratitude for his common sense and sensitive understanding of students and learning that evening. Also, our daughter Sarah and Lynn were friends in middle school and high school. Anne was a very active member of the Palo Alto. Woman’s Club and endorsed and supported my application to join. We had a wonderful time being Luncheon Co-Chairs and I wished we could have continued our walking experience. We send our prayers to the Ercolani family.

November 17th, 2020 at 10:21pm

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