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Oakland mom's devotion captured on film - Filmmaker son's movie won award in April
By Angela Hill, STAFF WRITER, Oakland Tribune
05/29/2007

OAKLAND

ELSIE LUCERO
was already a star to her seven grown children, keeping love alive and sorrow at bay after her husband was killed in a random shooting in front of the family's East Oakland home in 1982.
And now her filmmaker son, Anthony Lucero, has made his modest mom a bit of a celebrity in an award-winning short documentary titled "Angels & Wheelchairs." The film can be viewed at http://www.lucerofilms.com.

In the short film, he records her daily life as she cares for her 100-pound "angel," her 42-year-old severely disabled son, Eddie Lucero, who has cerebral palsy and was not expected to live past the age of 4.
"It was a personal and hard film to do, and for a long time I didn't want to dive into it," said Anthony, 35, sitting close to his mother on the couch in her living room the same house where his father died 25 years before.

"But I wanted to tell the story about my mom, about all she's been through and all she does, to honor her," he said, smiling ather. "She'll say it's the Lord. That it's Jesus that keeps her going. But she's so great."

At that, Elsie blushed, dropping her eyes and smoothing her apron, an ever-present garment except when she goes to Mass on Sundays.
"Oh, Anthony," she said.

The film won best drama/documentary at Alice Radio's fifth annual 3-Minute Independent Film Festival held in April in San Francisco. Elsie and Eddie both in the audience at the awards event to support Anthony received a standing ovation. Elsie, of course, broke into tears.

"Even talking about it now, it just makes me cry, I was so happy for Anthony," she said, and started crying again.

Anthony who lives in Oakland and works as an editor in a visual effects company, producing his own films in his spare time plans to submit a longer version of the documentary to other festivals later this year.

At first, Elsie, 74, balked as Anthony filmed, unsure she wanted Eddie's story revealed. She recoiled and laughed when Anthony would surprise her with the camera, not wanting to be seen without makeup, though the petite woman is always adorable anyway, her hair in small curls. Eventually, Anthony's persistence won out and Elsie conceded to the movie making.

"I felt bad saying no because this is his career and I want to help him," she said. "So I went along with it."

In the film, she is shown in her daily routine, gently patting Eddie's head, brushing his thick black hair and beaming at him all the while. She purees all his meals in a blender, adding protein and vitamins, and feeds him spoonful by spoonful. Eddie can open his mouth, and is seen making faces of displeasure at some mushy chicken.

Anthony narrates the film: "My mom would always say that Eddie was an angel. She said he received his wings on the day he was born and will go straight to heaven the day he dies. So growing up, I felt special, knowing I had an angel for a brother."

The film shows Elsie changing Eddie's diapers, and dressing him.
"What makes it really hard, he can't do anything. He can't help you lift up his legs. You have to do everything for him," she says in the film, reaching under his knees and his back and with strong muscles formed from four decades of this exercise lifting his 100-pound frame from the bed to his wheelchair.

"You can hear the words of strength in motion," she says to the camera. "I repeat it privately, but for you I'll say it out loud. The words of strength are (she lifted Eddie) 'One, two, three, Jesus be with me.' (She set Eddie down in the chair.) See? There's my strength."

It does seem Jesus is with her, in more ways than one. There are images of him all over the house, mingled with dozens of family photos of her two girls and five boys. Centerstage on the mantle is a wedding photo of when she and Pete "Pedro" Lucero wed in 1955.

"It's such a great family. So much selflessness," said family friend, Oakland Police Capt. Paul Figueroa, who grew up just a few houses from the Luceros and went to school with Anthony. "All (Elsie) does is take care of Eddie. She's amazing. And their dad was such a kind, nice man. It was such a tragedy to lose him."

Indeed, his death was one reason Figueroa, who now heads up the Office of Inspector General at OPD, went into police work.
"I distinctly remember the day it happened. Anthony and I were only 10," he said. "But even then, it gave me some perspective. It kind of began my interest in law enforcement. I didn't want people getting away with things like that."

It was early in the morning on Oct. 14, 1982. Pedro, 54, supported his large family working as a machinist for Bay City Iron Works. Just before work on that Thursday, he was out in front of their 47th Avenue home, walking the family dog, Benjie.

A tow truck was idling across the street to repossess a neighbor's station wagon. The neighbor, furious, rushed outside and started shooting at the tow truck driver. He missed, and instead hit Pedro, who stumbled back into his house and died on the dining room floor in front of his wife and children.

"I was there. My mom was there," Anthony said. "You move on, but that was a very dark thing. One of those things that follows you every day. I think about it every single day of my life."
So does his mom.

"I loved him," Elsie said, looking up at the wedding photo, tears starting to form. "He was the best. He helped me with Eddie. He would carry him on his shoulder and joke, 'Who wants a sack of potatoes?' He would take us all to the beach.

"When that tragedy happened, I thought, 'I don't know what I'm gonna do without him. How do I do this?' It was a big question in my heart and my mind," she said. "But when you turn to God in prayers, you can do it. It was because of my faith and my family."

Elsie's sister helped with Eddie for many years, until she passed away. And these days, one of Elsie's daughters lives next door, coming over to assist with Eddie's care.

The Luceros almost lost Eddie three years ago.

"It was Christmas time 2004. Everybody was sick," Elsie said. "Then Eddie got sick. He was not breathing right, or eating. We took him to the hospital."

Anthony was shooting the documentary at the time.

"But when we thought Eddie was gonna pass away, I just felt like I couldn't do it anymore," he said. "So there was a lapse of about a year 'til I felt sure he was totally healthy again."

Elsie has been amazed at the effect the film has had on all her family and friends, and even strangers.

"We've gotten calls, and Anthony got so many e-mails," she said.
"I printed them out for my mom to read," he said. "Some said things about her like, 'You're a saint,' or 'You should be on Oprah.'"

Elsie instantly scoffed at that notion, laughing, shaking her head and fussing with her apron again.

"Oh, Anthony," she said.

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