Tyler Fracassa, at age 27, was already a renaissance man. The young waiter built his own small home for his wife and three children on a small farm in Urich, Missouri, where he grew vegetables and planned a life of self-sufficiency for his family.
Nancy and Michael Smith — and the staff of their two restaurants — are devastated by Fracassa's death on Tuesday, September 25. He was driving back to his home — 50 minutes away from the restaurant — when he apparently fell asleep at the wheel of his car on Missouri Highway 7 at 1 a.m., hitting a tree and dying at the scene.
Tonight, beginning at 5 p.m., the Smiths will hold a memorial gathering for Fracassa at Extra Virgin, 1900 Main, and collect donations for his widow, Rachel (who is expecting the couple's fourth child), and family. The event is open to the public.
Fracassa was like a family member to Nancy and Michael Smith. His sister had also worked at the restaurants and his mother, Rene, had been employed as Nancy's assistant. Nancy Smith marvels at Fracassa's intellect: "He could do the New York Times crossword puzzle every day in practically five minutes. He was so bright, so talented."
Fracassa and his wife had married at age 16 and started a family soon afterward. He enrolled in medical school but dropped out to focus on creating a self-sufficient lifestyle for his wife and children. Although he was primarily a server at Michael Smith, he would also work on the Extra Virgin side of the dual restaurants, developing a loyal customer base. "So many people told Michael and I that he was the best server they had ever had. He was amazing."
Fracassa died without life insurance and his wife, Rachel, is a stay-at-home mother. The Smiths, many of the restaurants' investors, and the staff for the two restaurants have already raised over $5000 for the family and are hoping to raise more tonight. "We're accepting cash and checks made out to Rachel Fracassa," Nancy says. "There's also a memorial site online that has a way to donate funds. Rachel is very strong, but she's going to be raising four children by herself."