Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1426, Jan. 5th, 2011




We weren’t sure how he was going to react. The quiet guys who never said much were always hard to figure and predict. Chris Jemio was one of the most fanatical but reasonable Yankee fans we had ever worked with. He’d do his thing along with us on the on line travel company. After about a year he began to share his passions of music and baseball with us. Chris would take off after his shift for Yankee games and while we saw the highlights on Sports Center, he’d say, “Yep I was there last night”. Youth! The day the Red Sox came back from 3 down to kill off the Yankees in the 2004 Playoff for the American League was a historic one for a few of the Boston fans on our shift. We had then been transferred to the 6AM to 230PM shift, (the on line pagan travel company seemed to think that moving shifts and changing people on them would somehow make us care for about the job and by extension the so called managers that ran the joint) and certainly needed to commemorate the occasion. Being guys and sports fans ourselves what logical way to do this than to royally bust the biggest Yankee fan in the place. After agreeing that Chris wouldn’t go postal, we got to work decorating his cubicle. Black bunting, dark colored streamers, dark balloons as well as a picture of Babe Ruth wiping a tear from his eye (that was my contribution) festooned his work area. “Maybe he won’t show” someone said. Bruce W., the ringleader of this effort said, “Naw he’s a gamer, he’ll show”. At 5:58AM on the morning of October 21st, Chris Jemio walked to his cubicle and saw what we had done. He stopped, looked around, shook his head and said, “You guys! You know they haven’t won the World Series yet, they haven’t won it this decade, hell they haven’t won it this century”. Then he sat down and went to work leaving everything up. When I opined that the date the Yanks lost was significant , Chris finished my sentence saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Mantle’s birthday”. Before I could even say that the Yanks had taken a drubbing, he said, "Yeah, yeah, 10 to 3, I know, I know!"
One day Chris and I were in a 2 day training and on Monday we were trying to figure out the name of a pitcher the Yankees traded away to Oakland. About 28 hours later as we sat in that same training room, we both looked across the table from each other and said in unison, “Ted Lilly!” Our instructor asked what that meant and Chris said, “Turrets”.
Chris Jemio died on a Christmas Day in 2005. I was working when I heard the news. He wasn’t even 30. Most everybody on our team went to his funeral.
Two years later when I was hosting a Forum for the City Council candidates at Genetti’s a woman approached me and it turned out to be Chris’ mom. We both talked about how Chris would have loved the Yankees triple A team in Moosic, I told her the Ted Lilly story and we laughed and then cried a little.
On Christmas morning 2010, I brought the paper in and on the front page was Chris Jemio’s mother. Inside was a story about Chris’ life and legacy. I’m going to share that today in case you missed it. I have a feeling somewhere my friend Chris Jemio is saying, “You guys!” as he sees this stuff in print. Can’t help it man, we want people to know you as we did. Quiet, classy, a bit silly, more than dignified and especially kind and thoughtful. Yankee players aren’t the only ones with class, sometimes there are Yankee fans who have it too. Here’s his story:

A simple kindness

It started with a delivery of soccer balls and cleaning supplies. But it didn't stop there. Christopher Jemio lucked out in 2005 when he won a free trip to the destination of his choice from his employer, Travelocity. Before embarking to Mazatlan, Mexico, with two friends, the Wilkes-Barre resident decided to make his trip worthwhile by donating supplies to an orphanage there.
An avid soccer player in his school days, the 1997 Coughlin graduate knew the orphans in the futbol-passionate country would appreciate the soccer balls. And cleaning supplies were always needed. He told his friend Eileen Lindbuchler of his plan to visit the orphanage. She later told his mother, Teresa, that was when she knew she had fallen in love with Christopher. The two began dating after the trip.
Christopher, his best friend Steve Flannery, and Eileen arrived in Mexico in spring 2005. They searched for an orphanage they had seen online, but when they couldn't find it, decided to make the donation to the Ciuidad de Los Ninos orphanage in Mazatlan, located on the west coast of central Mexico.
While there, Christopher and Eileen had their picture taken with Sister Ofelia, one of the nuns who ran the orphanage. Teresa Jemio knew nothing of her son's selfless gesture until she looked through his photos and asked the nun's identity. Teresa was stunned by her son's generosity to the orphans.
"I had no idea they were going," she said.
His legacy might have ended there.
A sudden loss
About eight months after the trip to Mexico, on Christmas Eve, Christopher was returning from a family holiday party in Mountain Top with Eileen. As they left, he told his girlfriend he had the beginnings of a severe headache.
"'He said, 'My head is starting to hurt. How about driving the car?'" Teresa recalled her son asking Eileen.
Eileen stopped at a gas station for medicine and water, but by the time she returned to the car, Christopher was burning up. He yanked off his shirt and poured the water over himself in an effort to cool off, Teresa said.
Christopher was unconscious by the time they reached the hospital. Teresa and her son, Rob, rushed there after Eileen called to alert them to Christopher's condition. Doctors determined Christopher had suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. There was no chance for survival.
"By the time she got him to the hospital, he was not responsive at all," Teresa said. "He didn't have any brain activity."
Christopher died on Christmas morning.
Carrying on his mission
Christopher and Eileen had plans to return to Mexico and work at the orphanage. Although their plans died with Christopher, Teresa found herself willing to take up the torch her son lit.
Teresa knew there was more the orphans needed, so she and Eileen did some research and discovered the Tres Islas Orphanage Fund, which donated funds to several orphanages in Mazatlan.
They spoke to Donelle Manton, the fund's founder, and sent a check for $250, along with the story of Christopher's trip to Ciuidad de Los Ninos orphanage. Manton called them back with the news the money was enough to buy Christmas dinner and a Christmas tree for each orphanage.
Manton also asked Teresa if they could change the name of the annual Christmas fund to "The Christopher Fund." Now, each year, the fund pays for Christmas dinner for about 123 children in the five orphanages through the generosity of Christopher's family and friends.
In April 2008, Teresa visited Mazatlan to volunteer at the orphanages. While there, the volunteers spruced up the orphanage by painting and gardening, and took care of whatever else needed to be done.
"That was way out of my comfort zone," Teresa said of her solo trip to a foreign country. "But it was a wonderful experience."
Many of the children are not technically orphaned, but their parents are unable to take care of them due to drug or alcohol addiction, Teresa said. Seeing their smiling faces and how much they appreciate what they have was life-changing, Teresa said. She also had her picture taken with Sister Ofelia, echoing the picture her son took with the orphanage administrator during his trip.
"(The children) want to know that somebody's cares about them. That makes a difference in their lives," she said.
An inspiration to others
Teresa repeated the trip the past two years, sharing Christopher's story with family, friends and those she met on her journey. At first, she was reluctant to make the details public on a grand scale.
However, she realized that sharing her son's legacy is not only beneficial for The Christopher Fund, but it may inspire others to do good as well. Many of Christopher's friends have taken his example to heart, doing what they can to volunteer or donate money to good causes.
"That one instant in someone's life, led to this, and to that," she said.
Christopher's friends even came together to help the family pay for Christopher's gravestone. They held a benefit at Shooters, a bar just a few blocks from the family's home on Scott Street, in January 2006. Local bands Original Sin and 1428 performed in their friend's memory.
Christopher's life touched many of his friends and family, who came en masse to pay their respects at his funeral in Holy Savior Church. The outpouring of love and concern they have for Christopher and his family is comforting for Teresa, a reminder that her son was well-loved and his memory cherished.
"I always thought he was so shy. Oh, how I was wrong," Teresa said.
Even years after his death, Teresa finds mementos and flowers laid on her son's grave - including a picture of Christopher at the beach, walking toward the shoreline holding his cat, Carmel. The cat, in poor health, didn't have long to live, but Christopher wanted it to see the shore before it died, Teresa said. She forgot about that moment until she found the photograph propped against the gravestone.
"His friends still remember him, still love him," she said.
The gift of life
Christopher's giving spirit also lived on in the five people who received his organs after his death.
Her son knew the importance of organ donorship, Teresa said. Christopher's father, Roberto, had suffered from Wilson's Disease, and underwent a liver transplant in 1989. Although Roberto died only a few months later, the family knew that donated organs could mean the difference between life and death for someone else. Christopher's corneas, liver and kidneys were transplanted into five different recipients.
"We knew how much hope we had for my husband," Teresa said.
Teresa also cherishes the small signs that give her the strength to keep her son's memory alive.
During her travels, Teresa stops by churches to request a Mass for her son. At St. Mary's Basilica in Phoenix, Ariz., the Mass for Christopher was scheduled for May 9.
"May 9 was my mother's birthday. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Same as Christopher. She was 35," Teresa said.
She also learned that Christopher gave a coworker the book, "The Five People You Meet in Heaven," by Mitch Albom, the year he died.
"I've had lots of experiences like that," she said. "Just so many little things. What do they mean? You take it for what you want it for. You take it for what you need at the time."
Kristen Mullen, staff photographer, contributed to this story.


At 9:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your stories about Chris. I had the extreme honor of taking my nephew Chris to the Baseball Hall of Fame the first time he went. After that we went to several Induction days there. He may have told you about the hilarious speech the Phil Rizzuto gave when he was inducted. Chris loved his Yankees and was loyal to them win or lose. The CV story was a little hard to read on Christmas because it made us all remember how much we still wish Chris was here today. Thank you for sharing it with the world. Bill McDonough(Uncle Bill)

At 8:28 PM, Anonymous tjemio said...

Dear David,
Please know how much I appreciate your rememberances of Chris's love for the Yankees and the fun you and Bruce had teasing him.
When he was growing up I use to tell people we had the Don Mattingly (Chris's favorite player) shrine in our home. In 2007
our family and friends went to a Yankees game together to remember Chris. During the 7th inning the fan board message read " Family and Friends Remember with Love Christopher Jemio a True Yankees Fan". I think he would have loved it.
Thank you for your kind words.
Teresa Jemio


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