For the love of John…

Published 1:30 am Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Picayune Piece Makers Quilting Guild is sending quilts to New York which will be distributed to first responders of 9-11, through the FDNY Firefighter John F. McNamara Foundation and Fealgood Foundation. The club came to be involved in this effort through bonds of friendship between Susan Luc Jennifer McNamara, the wife of deceased, 9-11 fireman, John McNamara.

Susan Luc is a member of the Picayune Piece Maker Quilting Guild and the wife of former New Orleans Fire Chief, Alan Luc. Never could she have imagined either the devastation that Katrina could bring or the bond that she would form with a New York City fireman and his family. This bond would last  through his defeats and victories as he fought for health benefits for his fellow first responders and eventually his illness and death.

Al Luc first met Johnny Mac (John McNamara) when the New York Fire Department volunteers came to help in the aftermath of Katrina.  Al Luc introduced McNamara to his wife, Susan and they were like family in an instant. So much so, that when McNamara returned to New York, he had his new friend Al come up and march in the St. Paddy’s Day Parade.

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Susan Luc says, “A couple of months after he left New Orleans, he knew something was wrong. He went to the doctor and was diagnosed with tumors. That was three months after he and Jennifer found out they were expecting their son, Jack.

“My husband went up when little Jack was only six weeks old and was with Johnny Mac for his operation to take the tumors out. I followed him to New York and stayed with Jennifer and the baby. It was a very emotional time for all of us.

“It was in May of 2007, that I gave him the quilt that I had made for him. The quilt had firefighters and even 9-11 fabric that I had found. It made a difference for him when he got chills from the treatments. He loved it.”

Flash forward to 2010; Wendy Flammia, a close friend of John and Jennifer McNamara, is standing in a room of a marine who is in a coma.

She says, “I was in a Marine’s hospital room, who had joined the 9-11 rescue effort at the World Trade Center, when he was in a coma. He had his white blanket and little marine flag at the end of his bed. I felt that there was more need to have them recognized as the heroes they are. I am good friends with Jenn McNamara so she introduced me to Susan Luc. We came up with the idea of giving them a patriotic blanket that can keep them warmer and honor them.

“We have been working on this for a few months, with the anniversary coming up there has been a lot going on. The John F. McNamara Foundation and Fealgood Foundation are distributing the blankets provided by the Picayune Piecemaker’s Quilting Guild through this joint effort.”

Jennifer McNamara, and her 4-year-old son she shared with John, now live in Suffolk County, New York. She has followed through on one of her husband’s last requests by forming the FDNY Firefighter John F. McNamara Foundation (the Johnny Mac Foundation) after her husband’s death in August 2009 of 9-11 related cancer.

In John’s eulogy Jennifer said, “No matter what else he had done in his life, being a New York City firefighter was the essence of who he was. He loved the job and he loved the guys. What could be better than getting paid for helping others. On 9/11, John went to the Trade Center. He spent hundreds of hours there digging for bodies and bringing closure to families. He lost so many friends that day, but no matter how hard it was, he was determined to bring his brothers home. He never asked for accolades – he just did what needed to be done. At least to me, he never talked about what he did.

“When Hurricane Katrina hit, John was one of the first to volunteer to go. He fought some fires, cleaned out some refrigerators, and made a lifelong friend in Captain Al. He was proud of what he did in New Orleans and outraged at how the government handled the response. That was John. He didn’t see color, he didn’t see economics or class – he just saw people being treated badly and was enraged.”

Jennifer now serves as president on the board of the foundation she began in her husband’s honor. The Foundation also supports other 9/11 first responder organizations such as the Fealgood Foundation and Blue Point Food Pantry.

She serves on the New York State Bar Association’s Municipal Law Section’s Executive Committee. She is also Secretary and Legal Counsel of the FDNY Foundation, an FDNY captive non-profit, which raises funds for fire safety education and runs the Fire Zone in Rockefeller Center.

Talking about the Picayune Piece Makers Guild’s efforts, Jennifer McNamara says, “I think that project is amazing. I know that when John was sick, Susan made a quilt for him and it was warm and comforting. It was incredibly soothing, heavy and warm. It kept not just his body warm but it kept his heart warm because it was made by someone that loved him very much.

“When I think of these wonderful women from Picayune that are putting so much of themselves into these amazing gifts of love I can’t say enough about how proud I am to be a part of it.

“These men and women will get so much more than body warmth from these precious gifts; they will get heart warmth as well. This is so meaningful to someone going through chemo.

“I am so grateful to the women that are making these quilts in my husband’s memory. If he were still alive he would not only endorse it but probably take up quilting lessons himself.”

Flammia, whose husband is on the board of the Fealgood Foundation, says, “I look at my life ten years ago and most of my friends now are 911 widows and first responders. It is never about them — it is all about helping someone else. We look forward to starting this quilt distribution to these heroes. It is an honor to us.”

For more information on the FDNY Firefighter John F. McNamara Foundation go to: