MARCO ISLAND — Michelle Jackman, 37, of Marco Island, died just days before a benefit for her and her family was to be held at the Iron Rhino Saloon.
Ruthann DeJong, of Naples, worked with Jackman at the Snook Inn for several years.
DeJong said while Jackman was living with the struggle of breast cancer for about a year and a half, Jackman became worried about making her house payments as work became difficult and medical bills mounted.
“She was worried more about her house than she was her health. I could understand. It was what she could control. What we could control,” said DeJong, who found numerous supporters in Naples and Marco Island to help Jackman and her family make house and health payments.
When Jackman’s family came to visit, many from Michigan, Chicago and Oklahoma, they were astounded by the way the Island community pulled together for them.
“I was touched by the way the community came together here, not just for Michelle, but with all the benefits being held in support of people going through tough times,” said Scott Hope, Jackman’s new brother in-law.
Scott married Michelle’s sister, Heather, on April 17, just three days before Michelle’s death.
“It’s been bitter sweet,” he said of the near simultaneous death, marriage and witness of human compassion.
Not sure what to do, the benefit was held at the Iron Rhino, on April 26, glaringly lacking Michelle Jackman.
The family needed the support, particularly Michelle’s husband Tom, who survives her along with Michelle’s sisters Heather Hope and Tracy Wylie, brother Mack Wylie, mom Carol Wylie and dad Bill Wylie.
Scott Hope said what touched him the most was the help from Michelle’s friend and coworker Cindy Russo, Dennis and Lori Passini, co-owners of the Snook Inn, the Collier County Chapter of the Defenders motorcycle group and Gary Viggiano, the owner of the Iron Rhino.
Not all of them even knew Michelle, but those who did, inspired people to help, the Hopes said.
Russo, with support from other friends of Jackman, did the lion’s share of pulling people together for the family, Scott Hope added.
Friends and family said they were impressed with the way the Passinis helped Jackman.
“The owner of the Snook Inn was discreetly doing things such as helping pay for her health insurance,” said Hope.
Jackman was grateful right through the end.
“She couldn’t believe what everyone was doing for her,” Russo said.
The Iron Rhino, Viggiano has said, is named for a the resilience of the rhino and the iron of a motorcycle and was established with the goal to be there to help people in need.
“He expects nothing in return,” DeJong said of Viggiano.
She remembers her friend and former Snook Inn co-worker, Jackman, as “precocious, always starting up fun trouble” and being grateful for all those who helped.