New York Times Portraits of Grief

Gerald Thomas O'Leary

Mary Jean O'Leary lost her husband, Gerald Thomas O'Leary, and her brother, Robert McCarthy, on Sept. 11. Mr. O'Leary, 34, was a sous-chef at Cantor Fitzgerald. He had just quit working at the Plaza Hotel — he cooked for Joan Rivers's daughter's wedding there — to work more manageable corporate hours. It got him home to Stony Point to play with his son, Michael, born on Sept. 28, 2000.

"He wanted him to walk by his first birthday," Mrs. O'Leary said. "That was his big thing. Every night they would practice." Mr. O'Leary's father also died at 34, and Michael is named for his father's grandfather and role model.

"He loved to cook," Mrs. O'Leary said. "He was a great saucier; his sauces were just unbelievable." She would thaw a piece of meat and he would give her four or five recipes to choose from. "I still can't figure out what he did," she said. "I never watched him." Now both she and her sister-in-law have to learn to cook.

The two couples, who lived around a corner from each other, had a running lawn-care competition. They'd help each other but also try to tire each other out. Who won? "I'll have to go with Ger on that," Mrs. O'Leary said. "It was pretty close."