Karen Nunley

Between the Lines

I never met him. I don’t know why I even noticed the short obituary in the Trenton Times or why it touched me so.

The obit said so little, yet spoke volumes to me. He was too young to die --the same age as my brother, who I still consider a kid. There is no mention of a long illness, no American Heart Association, cancer fund, or diabetes foundation. He died at home, not at St. Francis Hospital or at the new state-of-the-art Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center. He must have been stricken suddenly.

I assume that he died alone. His parents are dead; his brothers are out of town. Sometimes obituaries talk about a “close friend” or fiancée, but evidently no such luck for Luke. Obviously an animal lover, maybe his shepherd mix was with him when his heart stopped beating. Maybe a trio of cats rubbed against his lifeless body for days waiting to be stroked and fed. And how was he found? When the bills and flyers overflowed the mailbox, did the postman peak through the window? Did the growing pile of newspapers on the front stairs alarm the lady next door? Perhaps the principal of the Wilson School called the police when Luke did not unlock the custodian’s room two days in a row.

Jacoby sounds Polish. They must have been Catholic, naming their sons after the Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, bless the bed that I lie on. Luke must have been the third son. What would Joe and Martha have named a fifth son? A daughter would have been Mary, no doubt. They were probably all blond with straight cow-licked hair and study builds, nice little Polish boys. Luke was probably cute enough to be chased by girls in the schoolyard in fifth grade. Maybe in high school, his first real girlfriend taught him how to make his lips very soft when kissing.

He was not much of a student, but almost certainly had dreams of becoming something other than a school custodian. Maybe a star pitcher in the Babe Ruth ball, he dreamed of playing professionally. Perhaps he went to the vocational high school and planned to be a car mechanic, working at a garage on weekends, but he hated the black that was impossible to get out from under his nails and the tools were so expensive. For a while he might have stocked produce at the A&P, but when his mother’s friend heard about an opening in the school system and explained the great benefits, the die was cast.

He was married at one time, hence the stepson, but must have been divorced. There is nothing about a late wife or one left behind.

Probably they were married in Our Lady of Sorrows Church, with little Sean as the ring bearer. Luke would have carefully combed his hair to the side, pinning a white rose onto his lapel. The wife without a name must have smiled and thought him the handsomest man in the world. They must have had nights when they made love with the lights on and then slept like spoons, so close that their hearts kept the same rhythm. Living on a custodian’s salary was a challenge, straining the relationship. Maybe he wanted children of his own or Sean missed his dad and pitted his mom against Luke, an angry silence settling between them. Maybe he didn’t come home one night, and the wife took Sean and went back to her mother’s house in Nashua, returning later to pack up the dishes and Sean’s Nintendo system. He pled with her to come back, but, by that time, an old boyfriend from high school days had resurfaced. She could picture a future without Luke.

Maybe he began to drink too much to fill the lonely days. Perhaps he took his own life, shooting his dog so it would not be left behind, before turning the gun on himself.

In a way, I am glad that Joe and Martha were not there to see Luke’s demise. I have a feeling that they were alive when Mark died. Cleaning out Mark’s room, looking through his coin collection, his prom photos, his school papers broke their hearts and crushed their will to live. They probably died within a few months of each other, frail and skeletal. I only hope that Matthew and John rise to the responsibility and do not argue over the distribution of Luke’s few possessions.

I read over the obit one more time. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Luke was gay. Maybe Jacoby is an Italian name. Maybe he was a drug dealer with lots of money stashed under his Sealy Posturpedic mattress. I guess I will never know I think as I write out a check for ten dollars to the ASPCA.

Luke R. Jacoby

Luke R. Jacoby, 47, of 28 Paxson Avenue, Hamilton, died Tuesday, September 12 at home. He was a lifelong Hamilton resident.

He leaves a stepson, Sean Dorsey of Nashua, NH, and two brothers, Matthew B. Jacoby of West Palm Beach, Florida, and John A. Jacoby of Doylestown, PA. He was predeceased by another brother, Mark David Jacoby. He was the son of the late Joseph E. and Martha (Willis) Jacoby.

Mr. Jacoby was employed as a custodian in the Hamilton Township school system. He was an avid Phillies fan.

Funeral arrangements are private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the ASPCA , 1433 Quaker Bridge Road, Hamilton. NJ 08619