Jacqueline Lucas Rocks, a yoga teacher, photographer, and summer resident of the Vineyard known for her big heart and great eyewear, died at her home in Port Chester, N.Y., on May 9. The birds sang all night. Jacqueline was 47 years old and had been diagnosed two years earlier with pancreatic cancer.
Jacqueline’s greatest treasures were her two daughters, Esmé (15) and Adriana (13). She always kept them well-fed and impeccably clothed, and she filled their lives with love, music, and dreams of faraway places. She taught them the pleasures of a hot bath, how to forge order from the chaos of daily life, and the importance of cutting a sandwich in half before serving it. Some friends surmise that she held onto life until 12:05 am on Monday to spare her children the pain of losing their mother on Mother’s Day. One of the last things she told them was, “I’m going to miss you terribly.”
Jacqueline’s friends feel the same way about her. She was the hub of a wide circle of people who loved her vitality, her caring, and her directness. “She was utterly comfortable with who she was, and very honest, so people trusted her,” her friend Andy Frenkiel says. “They feel like they’ve lost their best friend, someone who was at the center of their lives.”
They also loved her glasses. “The air seemed to move differently as she entered the room,” Laura Hagmann writes of her first encounter with Jacqueline. “The door opened and in walked this woman with long wavy hair and fantastic glasses.” Corina Larkin says that the first time she met Jacqueline, “those awesome green glasses marked her as so hip and interesting.”
When Jacqueline started taking yoga classes in 2006, she discovered a great passion. She threw herself into the discipline and quickly decided that she wanted to teach yoga to help others understand the joy and tranquility that it gave her. In 2008, she completed a teacher training course in yoga and began leading classes at studios around Westchester County and in New York City. More than anything, she saw yoga as a way to care for and heal both physical and spiritual pain. The class that gave her the most satisfaction was for survivors of breast cancer.
Before moving to Port Chester in 2000, Jacqueline spent eight years in Prague, where her husband David worked as a journalist. She was initially dismayed by the coal smoke that blanketed the Czech capital, the surliness of waiters and shopkeepers, and the relative surplus of consonants in the language (she often claimed to have trouble pronouncing čtyři — the Czech word for four — so she took to asking for “three plus one”).
It didn’t take long, though, for Jacqueline to master enough Czech to make her way smoothly through the winding streets and bureaucratic byways of the newly democratizing land she grew to love. She learned the art of foraging for food and supplies in what was still a barren retail landscape. She worked as a circulation and distribution consultant for the Prague Post, a startup English-language newspaper. And after some jousting with the Byzantine (to an American’s eyes) Czech medical establishment, she gave birth to Esmé and Adriana in Prague hospitals. “Living in a former communist country is no day at the beach,” she wrote to her friend Maria Regan. “I highly recommend it.”
From their base in Prague, Jacqueline and David traveled widely for work and for pleasure, and Jacqueline began taking photographs for David’s stories. Her work has been published in the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and dozens of other newspapers and magazines.
One such trip took them to the Algarve region on the southern coast of Portugal, where they met up with four friends who had come from the U.S. thinking they were simply renting a house for a week in the sun. On June 25, 1992, Jacqueline and David presented their friends with wedding invitations, asking them to gather on a point overlooking the Atlantic at “Six O’Clock, more or less … in smart-but-casual dress.” That evening, they exchanged vows at Nossa Senhora de Rocha, promising to “sacrifice for each other, grow together, and, of course, travel together.”
Jacqueline was born in 1963 in Hartford, Conn. Her father, Joseph Lucas, was a physician raised in Schenectady, N.Y. Her mother, née Vanda Fanelli, was a homemaker born in Rome, who met her husband while he studied medicine at the University of Rome.
Jacqueline frequently visited Italy during her childhood, where she learned to speak Italian, to handle herself among strangers, and, with her sisters Monique and Lisa, how to herd rabbits at her mother’s ancestral home in the Le Marche region.
She graduated from the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Conn. She received a BA in International Studies from The American University in Washington, D.C. She and David met while they were both getting master’s degrees in International Communications from American.
Jacqueline is survived by her daughters and husband of Port Chester, N.Y.; her mother, Vanda, of Chilmark; her sister Lisa of Chilmark and sister Monique of Easthampton, Mass.; five nieces and nephews, and four cats.
A memorial service will be held at The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., on May 21 at 11 am.