For the past week, Larry La Pierre and his family have faced a double whammy, dealing with the aftermath of a grandson’s serious crash near St. Helena and the death of his wife of nearly 50 years a day later.
On Sept. 26, Jacob La Pierre, 25, suffered critical injuries after he crashed into a tree on the Silverado Trail near Taplin Road as he hauled roofing material to a job in Deer Park.
La Pierre was airlifted to Queen of the Valley Medical Center and rushed to the intensive care unit.
But while his family rallied around the young roofer who works for the family business, La Pierre Roofing, another tragedy struck.
A day after La Pierre’s crash, the family matriarch, Joyce La Pierre, 64, died from a stroke as she and others chatted in the waiting room of the intensive care unit.
“We were all very, very stressed. And my wife was very, very stressed,” said Larry La Pierre, reflecting on the tragic events. “You talk about a double whammy.”
So many things have to be done now that his wife has died, La Pierre said Friday. “You just kind of get up in the morning and go through the motions,” he said.
At the same time, the family is very proud that Joyce, a woman of strong convictions, has donated five organs.
“My mom gave everything to everyone all the time,” daughter Pam La Pierre said. “It was just another thing she could give.”
Coy La Pierre — Jacob’s father — said his mother was sitting next to him in the waiting room that evening when she suffered a stroke.
“She was sitting there and talking to everybody and then all of a sudden she stopped answering (questions) and everybody became concerned,” he said. “And (then) somebody said, ‘I think she’s having a stroke,’” he said. “I started tapping her arm and then her cheek, and she didn’t react, and that was it.”
Larry La Pierre said he was home trying to deal with the insurance matters related to his grandson’s crash when his son Coy called to urge him to come to the hospital immediately.
“Life is a very painful thing at times,” said Coy La Pierre, who ran the roofing company with his parents. “We’re just trying to be strong.”
Jacob La Pierre was listed in stable condition Friday afternoon at Queen of the Valley Medical Center, according to hospital representative Vanessa deGier.
Coy La Pierre said a man driving behind his son saw a vehicle pull in front of Jacob’s truck, and Jacob’s truck then swerved to avoid a collision and crashed into a tree.
A passer-by, Leopoldo Martinez of St. Helena, stopped and rushed to Jacob’s aid, putting out an engine fire with his hand-held fire extinguisher and removing debris from Jacob, according to La Pierre family members and the California Highway Patrol.
While Martinez tried to put out the fire, other people comforted Jacob or tried to control traffic.
First-responders had to extricate Jacob from the 1995 Ford Flatbed, and he was transported by a CHP helicopter to Queen of the Valley Medical Center, according to the CHP.
Martinez, a trucker, left his name and contact information with a woman at the scene, said Coy La Pierre.
He went to the hospital with his wife and daughter last weekend as soon as Coy La Pierre contacted him.
“This man is a hero,” Coy La Pierre said.
Martinez said he does not feel like a hero. “It could happen to me,” he said Saturday, referring to the crash.
CHP Officer Anna Paulson on Friday said the cause of the collision remains under investigation. In the meantime, the La Pierre family hopes witnesses to the crash will come forward and contact them at their business at 255-9097.