After spending more than two years hauling debris from Ground Zero following 9/11, Arthur Lacker dealt with the same health problems faced by many who worked there.
The toxic dust at the site of the World Trade Center led to breathing difficulties, chronic asthma and eventually, a lung cancer diagnosis that required a partial lung removal. But with treatment and support from his family, Lacker was in remission and ready to enjoy the fruits of his lifelong dedication to hard work.
“Even when he was sick, he never complained,” said Robin Lacker, who was with Arthur for 38 years, 33 of those as his wife. They shared a home in East Meadow for the last 19. “We had just found a place in Florida that maybe he could retire to. But his life was cut short.”
After returning home from a trip to Sarasota, a long-planned vacation that included a visit to his daughter, Tara Magana, in Jacksonville, Lacker was admitted to NYU Winthrop Hospital on March 22. By April 2, he had died from complications due to COVID-19 at age 73.
“I know that he was 73, but I believe he had at least 10 or 15 years left,” said Robin, who, along with their son, Jared, was the only one allowed to attend the burial on April 5. “Nothing ever stopped him. He was so full of life.”
“Artie,” as he was affectionately called, worked for Tully Construction for 28 years. He had a strong work ethic and absolutely loved his job, working up until mere days before he was admitted to the hospital. But though work was important to him, it didn’t consume him.
An outgoing individual, Lacker loved a good time. He collected vinyl records, loved to dance and had a special affinity for disco music. Whether it was a bar mitzvah, wedding or graduation party, Lacker was the one pulling people onto the dance floor.
“Music was a big part of growing up,” Magana said. “He had an extensive vinyl collection. I have memories of him showing me how to carefully hold records and how to slowly drop the needle in the record player. He’d twirl me around and dance with me.”
During Magana’s early years, she and her dad would take day trips into Manhattan during the summer and explore the narrow side streets of the village — a memory so strong that whenever she smells asphalt, she thinks of her father. Lacker also had a love of motorcycles, particularly Harley-Davidsons.
“He loved his bikes,” Magana said. “I would beg him to take me for rides around the block. I would be holding onto him tight with one arm and waving at all the neighborhood kids with the other. I just thought I was the coolest kid in the world.”
Now, Magana thinks about what could have been if he'd been able to get that second home in Florida.
“I miss him. And I was very excited that they were going to purchase a property in Florida. They had been talking about it for years and it was finally going to be a reality,” she said. “I feel cheated. I had him for 43 years and I just would have liked a little more time. If you knew him, you’d understand.”
His wife said she will always remember him for his love — whether that’s his love of work, his love of family and friends, his love of music or his love of gardening.
“I’ll always have that last great memory of being with him in Sarasota. We had a great dinner, then went out dancing with friends,” she said. “He was really happy and could imagine a life for us there after he decided to retire.”