Family has moved, but not moved on, after father’s death

The week before Thanksgiving, Lucia McNack posted a slideshow on Facebook titled “Celebrating the 8th Year Anniversary of Our Daddy’s New Life.” Tears fill her eyes when she thinks about the “new life” of her husband, Jerry.

That doesn’t stop Lucia, 47, from dwelling on his old life: the one he shared with her and their four daughters, the one that ended Nov. 20, 2005, when she was 7 1/2 months pregnant with their son.

Jerry died unexpectedly of natural causes at 53 in their Mission Bay apartment. He was the family’s 6-foot-5, soft-spoken king of karaoke. He was also the sole provider. And though he’d worked as a security guard at a Union Square building for 26 years, plus occasional shifts as a parking attendant, there wasn’t enough money in savings to cover a month’s rent.

In tough times, Lucia relies on her faith in God and her knowledge that Jerry is in heaven. Even so, she had a hard time believing her fortune when she found out The Chronicle’s Season ofSharing Fund paid two months’ rent for the family, bridging the gap until Social Securitychecks arrived.

Readers helped in ’05

A week shy of Christmas 2005, The Chronicle published a Season of Sharing story on the McNack family, detailing their situation. Readers responded generously, sending gifts to the family – toys for the kids and things for the house, such as plush bath towels. One couple bought the family Christmas presents that year, with a promise to do the same the next year. Other readers pooled their money and gave Lucia a new desktop computer, which she still uses daily.

“That computer helped me to get through each day, because every day I would make CDs with his pictures, put songs on there,” she said.

Lucia’s longtime friend and former roommate Shelia Holmes, who lives in Antioch, said the rent money from Season of Sharing helped tremendously.

“She needed it so much, and it was a beautiful thing that someone reached out that way,” she said. “It helped her get a new start.”

Lucia had relied greatly on Jerry as a co-parent; his patience was much greater than hers.

“I was angry for a while – terrified, angry,” Lucia said. ” ‘How could you leave me like this?’ I was mad at God for a while. Why am I going through all this?”

Little coincidences – the dreams she’d have, the uncanny things her children would say – all helped her sense Jerry’s presence. And when she gave birth to their son Justus on Jerry’s birthday, Jan. 23, it was bittersweet. Justus’ tiny chest bore the same birthmark, a brown mark on the left side, as his father’s.

When Justus was almost 2, in 2007, the family moved to Las Vegas, into the apartment building where Lucia’s sister lives.

Keeping memory alive

Before the move, Lucia couldn’t bear to disturb Jerry’s belongings. The clothes that draped his immense body hung in the closet untouched. His beloved Luther Vandross and Barry White albums were still in a stack near the record player.

Lucia’s voice sounds far away and dreamy when she reminisces about seeing Jerry for the first time in his guard’s uniform outside 500 Sutter St., or how he would try to solve her every problem and make her smile by serenading her with karaoke. Inevitably, she cries.

Her daughters Jenise, 15, Jezelle, 12, and Jeraldine, 9, like to watch old home movies of them sitting next to their father while he sings or plays the keyboard. Most of the time, Justus, 7, leaves the room. The movies are a reminder that he was never held by his father.

The children are still grieving, Lucia said, but she believes keeping their father’s memory alive is therapeutic. The walls of their apartment are lined with photos of Jerry. At Christmas every year, she hangs the “Jerry” stocking on the door.

She creates photo collages and slideshows for every birthday and anniversary. Posting these, along with positive thoughts, on social media has helped her work through the pain, she said.

A new start

The new surroundings in Nevada have been good for the family, she said, but she doesn’t rule out a return to San Francisco. She was raised in Japantown, where her family settled when they arrived from the Philippines when Lucia was a toddler. Her eldest daughter, Jenelle, lives in the Mission, and many of Lucia’s nine siblings are in the Bay Area.

Every once in a while, Lucia pulls out the newspaper article to remind her children how fortunate they are.

“We probably would have been homeless had I not received the money,” she said.

For the past two years, Lucia has worked at a time-share resort. She knows money will always be a struggle but dreams of one day owning a home. As for remarrying, at this point, she can’t imagine it. She has been asked out on dates but isn’t interested. She’d rather make slideshows of Jerry and offer comfort to other widows. Just as she believes their husbands have embarked on new lives, she assures them that there is also a new life for them.

“God carries me through each day,” she said. “I have to say that. I have a totally new understanding of the ‘Footprints in the Sand.’ ”


Jennifer Blot is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. She can be reached by e-mail at

The original article can be found here.