Hundreds gathered to mourn the Westchester comedian killed in the New Jersey Turnpike crash that critically injured "30 Rock" star Tracy Morgan at his funeral Thursday, paying homage to him on the very stage where he made audiences laugh for years.
A service for James "Jimmy Mack" McNair was held at the Paramount Theater of the Hudson Valley in Peekskill, according to the E.O. Curry Funeral Home. The marquee outside the theater was lit Thursday morning in his honor as mourners lined up outside, recalling their favorite memories of the 63-year-old star.One woman said she'd miss his smile -- and the way he always joked with her and her husband.
McNair and Morgan were riding to New York City after a show in Delaware when a Wal-Mart truck smashed into the back of Morgan's limo, causing it to flip and slide into several other vehicles.
McNair was pronounced dead after the crash. Morgan suffered a broken leg, broken nose and several broken ribs. He's expected to remain hospitalized for "several weeks" according to his spokesman, but is continuing to show signs of improvement and his doctors "remain optimistic that his recovery is progressing."
Two other passengers, assistant Jeffrey Millea and comedian Ardie Fuqua Jr., were seriously injured, and another, Harris Stanton, was treated and released from the hospital. Millea's wife said he has "shown much improvement over the past few days," according to Morgan's spokesman.
McNair is remembered as a friend and mentor to Morgan and was active in Peekskill as a frequent volunteer. Friends and relatives say the two met 20 years ago and stayed close.
He also helped care for his sister, who has cancer, associates said, and served as a role model to his son and daughter. A relative said McNair's son was able to comfort mourners at the funeral Thursday, but his 18-year-old daughter was having more trouble coping with the loss of her father.
"He'd drive her to school every day and take her to get her nails done," the relative said, calling McNair "the perfect dad."
McNair's family set up a donation fund to help pay for his daughter Denita's college tuition. She is set to graduate from Peekskill High School this spring.
The truck driver, Kevin Roper, pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide and assault by auto charges Wednesday in state Superior Court. A criminal complaint alleges that he hadn't slept for 24 hours before the accident.
-Tracie Strahan contributed to this report