John McNamara 1965-2009
This has been a summer for famous people dying. The iconic anchor man Walter Cronkite and Frank McCourt, the notable Irish American author of Angela's Ashes, recently left the scene. I write here of another Irish American's death: my nephew by marriage, John McNamara, called Johnny Mac by his friends, who died yesterday after a three year battle with cancer. And what a battle it was. He fought like a champion to stay alive, enduring every form or medical treatment so as to be there for his two-year-old son Jack and his wife Jennifer. He lost that battle but he left behind a legacy as valuable as that of Cronkite or McCourt: a legacy of helping out in troubled times.
John was a New York City fireman. Plain, but not simple. He worked tirelessly at the cleanup after 9/11, exposing himself to every known and unknown toxin that settled in the air at Ground Zero, toxins undisclosed and misrepresented by our then panicky and disingenuous leaders. It can be truly said that his work there cost him his life. He later rushed to volunteer in New Orleans after Katrina, rescuing people and animals, living in those polluted waters, sending home messages for relief packages for the survivors, and looking for homes for lost dogs. He was that rare creature, an altogether good man who found his deepest pleasure in helping others. Virtue, old fashioned virtue, comes in short supply these days; it is so rare that it is often suspected of being faked, but John had it real and in abundance. He lived by his word. Because John made decency seem so easy one mistook it for simplicity, like watching a great athlete or actor -- the effortlessness of true talent. His was a genius for kindness.
When my 92-year-old mother-in-law insisted upon living alone in her apartment, long past the time when that was a good plan, John, during those times when he was off duty from his firehouse work, would often visit with her, play cards with her, take her marketing, walk her dog, and make a lonely old woman feel that she mattered to him. He had a great smile and a natural wit -- he called things as he saw them -- but he was no plaster saint. He could be irreverently funny and get more than annoyed by what he considered unfairness. When he married my niece Jennifer he even called me Uncle Sherman, much to my bewilderment -- adopting me immediately as his family elder although I am anything but avuncular. Best of all for me, he enjoyed and understood my plays and political essays and called me from time to time to discuss them with me. No greater flattery can a writer feel than to be taken seriously by an intelligent guy who listens hard, learns much, and is not afraid to challenge or to be challenged by other folk's ideas. He had voted for Obama but he kept a sharp eye on Washington, which had more than once betrayed the firefighters.
Later, after his colon cancer appeared, and so many of his fellow first responders began to die of 9/11 related illnesses, he became an activist in the cause of these Ground Zero workers -- a voice to be reckoned with who would travel to Washington with such champions of their cause as Congresswoman Caroline Maloney, hoping to make the case for government recognition of their medical needs and their sacrifice.
As I visited John at his backyard family gatherings and later during his many hospital stays, I came to know some of his brothers in the fire department: for brothers they were. These men would drive him from his home on Long Island for treatment for his cancer at Sloan Kettering in Manhattan and wait around for news of his progress, with someone always there to drive him home. They were heroes without hook and ladder. There is something remarkable about that brotherhood born in shared danger but developed in quiet times. It was so much more than the camaraderie of beer and football, both of which John enjoyed: it was plain old- fashioned brotherly love. Corny? Sure. True? Absolutely.
My sons Nick and Chris and my daughter-in-law Lise loved John as someone who "got it." Someone with a life force in him, with a spirit of fun wedded to an underlying decency that made his company welcomed everywhere. Aware that he did not have long to live, he asked my son Nick to make sure that Nick's four-year-old daughter Vivian grew close to Jack, for to John, family was everything. He could be sympathetic without prying; your problem was not viewed as an opportunity to show his feelings but a chance to offer you simple comfort. John had a rough sweetness, he was a man without artifice -- he spoke his mind freely but always with complete candor and generosity. He could be irreverent, sometimes outrageous, but never cruel. My niece Jen will have a hard time in the days to come, as will his son Jack, who will find it hard to understand why his father is no longer a presence in his life. But those firemen and their wives will be there for them, as well as their many family friends. Time does not heal everything, often it heals nothing, but it does dull the pain, and it helps to know that we are not alone in the world with our grief. John's last days were difficult ones for him and for his wife. Jen showed extraordinary courage, clinging to whatever hope was offered by his doctors, until hope was no longer a possibility. Medical complications piled up on his frail body, the dreaded sepsis and pneumonia arrived to prevent him from taking the necessary life saving chemo, but he continued to fight on even as there was little left to fight with. Finally, with Jen holding his hand, John slipped out of his life into our memories.
Our government, who has spread its largesse to saving our banks and auto manufacturers, is still refusing to compensate the workers at Ground Zero who became sick in the cleanup and aftermath, still challenging their claims. As our understanding of the environmental catastrophe of that tragedy deepens that may well change. Jen will struggle to make a life as a single working mother; her young son Jack, who grew so close to his father during his years of illness at home will feel a great void in his life; Jen's mother and father, Jack's grand-parents, John's sisters and brothers, and his buddies from the firehouse will be there for his family. And I will so miss this guy who had the nerve to call me uncle. One can say of John what can be said of few men: he has left the world richer for having been in it and poorer for having left it. Trust me, John McNamara mattered as much as any of those men and women who get the big obits in the New York Times. His son Jack, being so young, may not easily recall his father in the years to come. So I've written this for you, Jack. You need to know that your Dad was a good and caring man who dedicated his life to helping others, the best that any one of us can hope to be.
Wake / Funeral Arrangements for John McNamara, Eng 234 (RIP)
John McNamara, Eng 234, passed away on Sunday 8/9 after a 3 year battle with Cancer. Please pray for his wife and son.
Location: Raynor & D'Andrea Funeral Home (on Wed/Thurs) St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fri AM
Street: 245 Montauk Highway
City/Town: West Sayville, NY
DescriptionViewing / Wake to be held on Wed, 8/12 and Thurs 8/13 from 2-4pm and 7-9pm
Raynor & D'Andrea Funeral Home
245 Montauk Highway
West Sayville, NY 11796
Phone 631-589-2345, TOLL-FREE NUMBER 1-800-737-0017
Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Friday, 8/14 at 10am
St. Patrickís Cathedral, NYC (51st Street & 5th Avenue)
Directions to Funeral Home:
From the West
Via the Long Island Expressway (495)
Take LIE to exit 57. Travel to Veterans Memorial Highway (454) East. Go four miles to Locust Ave. and turn right. Travel to the end of the road and turn left onto Montauk Highway. Funeral Home is one mile on left.
Via Southern State Parkway
Take Parkway to Exit 44E (Route 27/ Sunrise Highway). Take Sunrise Highway to Exit 48 (Locust Ave.) turn right. Take to end of the road and turn left onto Montauk Highway. Funeral Home is one mile on left.
From Eastern Long Island
Take any major highway, heading west to Nicholls Road (County Rd. 97) South to end. Make right turn onto County Road 85 (Montauk Highway). Funeral Home is four miles on right.
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Thread: FDNY WTC Death
08-10-2009, 07:31 PM #1
- Join Date
- Nov 2006
- Cupcake NY
FDNY WTC Death
08-10-2009, 07:35 PM #2
- Join Date
- Sep 2002
08-11-2009, 12:21 AM #3
That is just awful. It is a disgrace what is happening to the responders to 9/11.
RIP John, I salute you for your service.
08-11-2009, 02:50 AM #4
- Join Date
- Jun 2006
Thank you for sharing this letter on here. I did not know him personally but knew of him through John Feal. I read about his struggle and prayed with John and his mutual friends as the days passed and then finally his passing. My heart breaks for his family and friends who are so saddened by the loss. Johnny-Mac will never be forgotten. He will live on in others by his example of pure good-hearted kindness and strength.
He is yet, another angel amongst to many... but not just your regular saint who has gone to be with his brothers and sisters. His work on earth has only begun! Take heart that his legacy will live on and make the difference.
God grant strength, hope and much love to Jennifer and Jack McNamara.
Last edited by firetruckred; 08-11-2009 at 03:31 AM.
08-11-2009, 01:21 PM #5
RIP Brother, your sacrifice will not be forgotten.
Last edited by Lewiston2Capt; 08-11-2009 at 03:24 PM.
08-11-2009, 02:41 PM #6
Rest easy, Brother... we have it from here.
08-11-2009, 03:29 PM #7
Rest in Peace Brother.
Of those who work at ground zero, they probably will be more to pass from the effects picked up while operating there.Stay Safe and Well Out There....
Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers
08-12-2009, 12:01 AM #8
This man is a true hero fighting right to the end for both himself and other workers from 9/11 with medical problems. It breaks my heart and makes me mad at the same time that the NYC is trying to leave these guys in the dust.
No, I think we are just at the beginning of the lasting effects from that day. I think it's going to get worse before it gets better.
08-12-2009, 11:01 AM #9
Sorry to hear this.
Rest in peace Brother.
08-12-2009, 02:13 PM #10
- Join Date
- Jan 2009
I, and other Canadian firefighters, were disgusted by the lack of compensation offered to those who responded to the initial incident and the rescue/recovery afterwards. May he rest in peace. May his family know he is a true hero for his efforts to help others, not just at ground zero, but for his entire career.
08-12-2009, 05:30 PM #11
This is a very sad story. Does anyone in or close to FDNY know how many brothers they've lost post-9/11 because of 9/11?
08-13-2009, 12:39 AM #12
- Join Date
- May 2002
- Now in Victoria, BC. I'm from beautiful Jasper Alberta in the heart of the Can. Rockies - will always be an Albertan at heart!
My deepest sympathies to FDNY and the McNamara family.
Sleep peacefully in the arms of the angels, John.
08-13-2009, 04:35 PM #13
- Join Date
- Feb 2009
Rest in peace brother.
08-13-2009, 11:59 PM #14
- Join Date
- Jun 2006
08-14-2009, 12:18 AM #15
- Join Date
- Jun 2006
Very brave, big-hearted men.
Johnny McNamara and John Feal were best friends. They both have helped hundreds, if not thousands of rescue workers and regular people by giving of their heart and soul from helping rescue workers receive medical benefits to giving pure dignity back after losing their health, jobs and homes.
Please see John Feals facebook page for more about what these two brave men have done and continue to do to make a difference in so many lives. Amazing human beings.
In honor of Johnny-Mac. I post this video from Peter Grandich. Who closed his office today to honor the McNamara family.
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