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James McNair, Comedian Killed In Tracy Morgan Crash, Mourned In Peekskill

James McNair is being remembered as someone who always put Peekskill first.
James McNair is being remembered as someone who always put Peekskill first. Photo Credit: Courtesy of CHOP

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- The residents of the City of Peekskill meant everything to James McNair

McNair, 62, known as "Uncle Jimmy Mack," was killed in a six-car accident that left his friend, comedian Tracy Morgan in critical condition. The driver of the truck that caused the accident, Kevin Roper, has been charged with one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto, according to reports.

McNair's funeral will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Paramount Theater of the Hudson Valley in Peekskill, the city where McNair truly made a difference and helped many others.

He volunteered at the Salvation Army and did client care work for Caring for the Homeless of Peeskill (CHOP) at the Jan Peek House where he worked the midnight to 8 a.m. shift twice a week. He also was a regular volunteer at the Kiley Youth Center.

"He was very nice," Donna Besteiro, executive director of CHOP, said. "He was calming for our clients. He was empathetic and compassionate. He enjoyed interacting with people."

Besterio said he was very humble and had no idea he worked with Morgan.

"He used his comedy to help people move forward," Besterio said.

CHOP is feeling McNair's loss and Besterio said it was a somber mood at the Jan Peek House.

"In keeping with Jimmy's lighter side, we're all trying to move forward with a smile on our face," Besterio said. 

Peekskill resident Ruth Wells said McNair's death leaves a big hole in the community. 

"He was all about giving back to Peekskill," Wells said. "He volunteered with kids and had great respect for people in need."

McNair helped organize Peekskill's free lunch program and wanted patrons to sit at a table and be waited on. 

"He had an amazing spirit," Wells said. "It's hard to believe he's gone."

Deputy Mayor Drew Claxton was close to McNair and said he believed in community.

"He made sure people had a place to live, food to eat and things to do," Claxton said. "He was always approaching me concerned  about our youth and making sure there were programs available. He will definitely be missed."

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