Volunteer, 85, found dead in canal - Brownsville Herald: Valley

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Volunteer, 85, found dead in canal

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Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2013 8:00 am

NEAR ALAMO — Deputies have identified the body of a woman found dead in a canal Tuesday afternoon.

Gertrude Jasper Tucker, 85, was found dead in the canal Tuesday afternoon, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said in a statement.

Autopsy results suggest that Tucker, who was known as “Trudy,” drowned and no signs of foul play were found on her remains, Treviño said.

Deputies believe Tucker, who lived in the Bibleville colonia north of Alamo, may have slipped into a canal near the dead end of Earling Road, near Tower Road, after her car accidentally caught fire, the sheriff said.

“(These) are only theories until we get final toxicology reports and conduct further interviews with friends and family,” the sheriff said in a statement.

Neighbors and friends told deputies that Tucker had been acting “disoriented” in the days prior to her death, but those that knew her at McAllen Medical Center — where she volunteered, visiting pediatric patients and veterans — said she seemed herself during her Monday visit.

“Regular Trudy,” said Joel Peña, the volunteer coordinator at the hospital, describing how she appeared just one day before her death.

Peña spoke emotionally during a Wednesday telephone interview. Pausing several times to keep his composure, he remarked that Tucker was beloved by hospital staff, patients and other volunteers.

“She’s one of those people that touches you and you will always remember her,” he said.

Investigators will be working to determine why her car caught fire.

“Next of kin have been identified and contacted from out of state,” the sheriff said. “Our investigation continues.”

Tucker, a retired missionary, would preach to female inmates at the state prison in Reynosa, according to reports.

She began visiting children at McAllen Medical in 2000. When pediatric patients were moved to Edinburg in 2005, Tucker began visiting veterans instead. They reminded her of her five brothers who served during World War II and the Korean War, according to a 2011 news release from the hospital. Soon, she was coming to the hospital every day instead of the once- or twice-a-week visits she’d committed to, Peña said.

“She started coming almost every day because she didn’t want a vet to not have a visit,” he said.

“I just want you to know that I really do care,” Tucker said in a 2010 Monitor story, as she delivered the newspaper and Valentine’s Day gifts to hospitalized veterans. “Without these guys, we wouldn’t be free today.”