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FEATURE

A Death in the Family





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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. Continued...


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