But without the help of several stand-up Tracy citizens, they might not have even had the chance for closure.
Paul Anthony Diaz-Lucero was stillborn on Aug. 25, a devastating blow to the young couple. To make matters worse, the 23-year-old Diaz and 22-year-old Lucero didn’t have the money to give their first child together a funeral.
As if the grief of losing a son wasn’t difficult enough.
Luckily, on the afternoon of Aug. 27, Diaz and Lucero happened into Helm’s Ale House, where owner Dave Helm was holding court. He listened to their story, made sure they were fed, and started making phone calls.
That’s where this tragic story takes a turn for the better, and where the good folks of Tracy stepped up.
Singh Dale, the owner of Big O Tires downtown, agreed to open his business Sunday so Diaz and Lucero could host a fundraiser car wash. It was only the beginning.
The Rotary club collected and donated several hundred dollars from its members. Not to be outdone, city employee Rod Buchanan spurred the Sunrise Rotary to give to the cause. Don Cose and Delta Disposal chipped in a couple hundred dollars each, Martin Enos gave $50, and DeVinci’s Delicatessen, the South Side Community Association, and police Capt. John Espinoza got involved. (If I left anyone out, please let me know.)
Lynn and Gerard Gonsalves of Gerard’s Deli, where Lucero and her sister worked in the past and her aunt has worked for 17 years, also gave $200. Lynn described Sarah as a good kid who became a part of the family.
“She’s half my kid,” Lynn said. “It hit home kinda hard.”
Smaller gifts rolled in, too. Collection jars were set up at various downtown businesses, where a dollar here and a quarter there from anonymous donors eventually added up.
The result: Two weeks after Diaz and Lucero first walked into the pub on 10th Street and Central Avenue, their families gathered at Fry Memorial Chapel to mourn the loss of Paul Anthony.
Closure, at last.
“Now that he’s getting a birthday, or, unfortunately, a burial, at least we’re able to take him home with us,” Diaz said.
Both he and Lucero were overwhelmed by the response from their neighbors, many of whom they don’t even know.
“The community of Tracy was amazing. In small words, they were amazing,” Diaz said. “I don’t know who they are … but if they read the paper, they’re getting my thanks. Not my thanks, but my family and, most importantly, my son.”
But according to Herve Chevaillier, a Rotarian and owner of La Bonne Vie Cellars who helped make the chapel service a reality, it’s just the way Tracy is.
When his family’s house on Lehman Road burned down in 1997, people rallied. And it left an impression.
“I was amazed at the generosity of people,” he recalled. “Within two weeks, we had more clothes than we had prior to the fire, and we actually had to donate furniture. … You have to pay back a little bit.”
It was easy, he said, to put himself in Diaz’s shoes and pay it forward.
“I thought it was worth doing something,” Chevaillier said. “I remember when I was first married, and if anything like this happened to me, it would have been nice to have people help.”
There, but for the grace of God, go us all. There’s only a gossamer line between any of us and such a tragedy — you never know when you’re going to be the one in need of help.
Maybe that’s why people were so quick to lend a hand.
Or, as Helm suggests, maybe they just wanted to do the right thing.
“It was a wonderful example of what this community is capable of doing, and what we should be doing,” he said in front of the City Council at its most recent meeting.
Whatever the motivation, I hope it’s something we continue to do, and do more of. The ability is certainly there.
Tracy’s residents have shown time and time again that they are capable of great generosity — it’s one of the things that makes this city a community. Everyone who chips in is a part of it, and deserves to take a bow.
Because the type of gift given to Lucero and Diaz can’t be measured in money alone.
In the grand scheme of funerals, the Sept. 9 service probably didn’t cost much. But it allowed 50 people, two parents, one family, a chance to grieve.
That is priceless.
And no one appreciates it more than Diaz and Lucero.
“There’s no way I can repay what the community has done,” Diaz said. “It is just such a blessing and an honor to be in Tracy right now.”
• Second Thoughts is an opinion column by Jon Mendelson. To share your thoughts, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.