Neighbors raise funds for funeral
Yaremi Chuc, 17, received a text message at her Yucátan, Mexico home, from her adoring father on a mid-October evening just after he finished his shift preparing appetizers and salads at a trendy Dogpatch eatery.
She didn’t know it would be the last message to come from her father, José Caesar Chuc, 40, who spoke regularly of his daughter.
“Caesar would come in and talk about his wife and four children. His smile was beautiful,” said Brandy Rocha, who worked at Serpentine Restaurant with Chuc.
He died ten days after an Oct. 16 fight broke out between Chuc and five men during the early morning hours in the Mission District, resulting in two cases of assault with a deadly weapon.
There have been no arrests while police investigate the homicide and seek tips as to what happened during the 2 a.m. brawl that left Chuc unconscious in the middle of the street.
“[16th and Valencia is] a busy intersection and we’re hoping someone knows anything that happened,” said SFPD Officer Albie Esparaza.
The pantry cook was revered by his colleagues at Serpentine as “the Godfather,” for his ability to mobilize his community.
He wanted to move back to Yucátan by next winter. He wanted to see Vincente Fernandez with his friends in November. He wanted to see his children and wife again.
Now, his family is the beneficiary of up to $9,000 from members of the Serpentine and Dogpatch communities, from Napa restaurateurs to former managers, in a fundraising effort not typically seen in San Francisco.
Eve Benson, 41, a former server at Serpentine, stood at the door of the restaurant at the Nov. 11 fundraiser in awe while remembering the man she used to work with and grew close to.
“I’ve never really seen anything quite like it in the Dogpatch community or the restaurant community,” she said.
Diners and auctioneers raised $4,000 in auctioned gifts like psychotherapy sessions, $100 chocolate boxes or a $500 dinner for four at Redd in Napa. Some donated the requested $20 at the door while others donated $200. The bar raised $1,000 while donating $300 in bartenders’ tips, while the entire Serpentine staff worked voluntarily. In all, $7,000 was raised that night, said Rocha.
Over the course of six months, Benson will send portions of the total funds raised to Chuc’s family. She said a lot of it will be necessary to assist Chuc’s youngest son, who has down syndrome and is having difficulty comprehending his father’s death.
“I’m at the point of moving forward and taking care of the people he left behind,” Benson said. “It’s a tragic loss for both the people in the U.S. and Mexico.”
Former employees of Serpentine have said he brought in 90 percent of its staff—from dishwashers to cooks—and he mobilized a group of nine friends to send money back to Yucátan for children’s sports and medical bills for friends and family regularly.
His death unveiled many facets of selflessness, from the refusal of his friends to accept money from the Serpentine fundraiser to transport his body south, to his wife’s permission to donate all of Chuc’s organs domestically.
His head was transported to Yucátan for an open casket funeral.
Police say that Chuc was attacked by a group of five men with undetermined ages after a verbal argument escalated into a raucous physical fight involving deadly weapons.
Rocha said that Chuc’s death could be misinterpreted as the product of alcoholism and drug use, like many other Latinos that move to San Francisco for work but instead find poverty.
Chuc was earlier diagnosed with type II diabetes and didn’t want to get medical help. A nurse at General Hospital said Chuc didn’t have signs of bruises or injuries before he was heated and cooled to stimulate his comatose body.
“I know he wasn’t looking for trouble. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said former co-worker Mike Macaluso.
(Police are seeking tips to help with Chuc’s homicide investigation. Call (415) 575-4444 or text TIP411 with “SFPD” in the field and reference case #122900192.)