PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- James McNair, known as Uncle Jimmy Mack, was a comedian who always kept his fans and fellow comedians laughing. But McNair was serious about his family and helping the youth of Peekskill.
McNair, who was killed in a New Jersey Turnpike accident that injured comedian Tracy Morgan, was honored in front of an audience that filled Paramount Theater Hudson Valley on Thursday, where friends, family and his fellow comics paid tribute to the man they called Uncle Jimmy.
Comedian Freddie Ricks was one of the hosts of the funeral and kept the mood light, telling jokes and stories about McNair and constantly doing an impression of him.
"He served and loved his community," Ricks said. "Jimmy knew all y'all by name. He loved being on that stage. He had a real zest for life."
Ricks said there were some stories he couldn't tell about McNair but remembered the time McNair confronted him after Ricks met his sister, Pam.
"He threatened to kill me if I did anything with her," Ricks said.
Ricks said his fellow comedians would ensure McNair's daughter, Denita, got a prom dress and an education. Denita is set to graduate from Peekskill High School this month.
"He would want you to get an education and make sure you go off to college," Ricks said.
Later, a $500 check was given to Denita to help her get a prom dress.
"You can get yourself a nice dress," Ricks said. "You don't have to shop where your father would've gone."
A scholarship fund has been set up in lieu of flowers.
Edward Peterson remembered performing in front of tough crowds with McNair.
"A couple of times we got booed," Peterson said. "Jimmy said they were saying youuuu."
Peterson said McNair was a humble man who believed in him.
"Please take the time to believe in someone today," Peterson said.
Mayor Frank Catalina declared June 12 as James McNair Day in Peekskill and County Legislator John Testa said they would close the next county Board of Legislators meeting in honor of McNair.
"You still have to go to work," Ricks told the audience. "It doesn't mean it's a holiday."
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